IBHS Announces Grand Opening of Unique, World-Class Research Center

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) today announced the grand opening of its multi-risk building science research center in Chester County, S.C.

The state-of-the-art, multi-hazard applied research and training facility will significantly advance building science by enabling researchers to more fully and accurately evaluate various residential and commercial construction materials and systems. The facility is entirely funded by the property insurance industry.

When fully operational, the IBHS Research Center will be able to simulate Category 1, 2 and 3 hurricane-force winds, extra-tropical windstorms, thunderstorm frontal winds, wildfire ember showers, wind-driven rain and hailstorms within its 21,000 square-foot test chamber. These capabilities largely derive from a massive array of 105, 5-1/2 ft. diameter electric fans that can be accelerated up to 140 mph. The laboratory’s 750,000 gallon water tank will supply the test chamber’s 200 nozzles, capable of creating “rain” at a rate of up to 8 inches per hour. In addition, hailstones, burning embers and different types of “debris” will be introduced into the wind stream via a series of special ducts and other mechanical systems as part of a variety of tests.

“The new lab is a tangible, dramatic, generous demonstration of the property insurance industry’s deep commitment to reducing and preventing losses that disrupt the lives of millions of home and business owners each year,” said Julie Rochman, IBHS’ president and CEO. “We are confident that IBHS’ scientific research will greatly improve residential and commercial design and construction—and we are very excited to get to work.”

Initial research at the IBHS Research Center will focus on improved roofing performance. Because roof covers are replaced more frequently than any other building component, changes in roofing products and installation requirements can produce significant paybacks within a short period of time. Priority areas of testing include looking at performance of shingles in various windstorm conditions, exploring the effects of short- and long-term aging on roofing material and systems, developing cost-effective methods to retrofit various systems to reduce damage and losses.

“In addition to wind alone, damage from wind driven hail, water and fire will be core components of our research programs,” said Dr. Timothy Reinhold, IBHS senior vice president of research and chief engineer. “There is so much to be learned about new construction as well as how best to retrofit existing buildings now that we can closely watch building materials and entire systems perform in real world conditions. We are pleased that even at this early point in our initiative, we already are able to forge significant partnerships with leading public, private, and academic institutions who appreciate the quantum leap forward the findings from our lab will mean for building science in this country.”

Testing at the lab also will enable stakeholders in the insurance and construction industries to learn more about “green” building components and techniques. Research will focus on the durability and resiliency of sustainable building technology, with particular emphasis on the potential for a technology to reduce or increase property losses.

“At the IBHS Research Center, we will learn how to substantially reduce some of Mother Nature’s most potentially devastating impacts on residential and commercial property. The research findings will change the built environment for the better,” Rochman said.
Editor’s note: You may view video and still photographs from the Grand Opening here.

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About the IBHS
IBHS is an independent, nonprofit, scientific and educational organization supported by the property insurance industry. The organization works to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other risks to residential and commercial property by conducting research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparation practices.