Julie Rochman, in red, is surrounded by local officials at the ground-breaking ceremony for the Institute for Business & Home Safety Wednesday.
The Institute for Business & Home Safety had a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday on the site where it is building a state-of-the-art facility to test construction materials and building practices under multiple hazardous conditions, even simulating a category 3 hurricane.
County and state officials were on hand for the ceremony. The company started working on the site several weeks ago. Construction should be complete by March and full-scale testing should begin in a year, the institute’s president said.
The disaster safety Research Center in Chester County will be unique in all the world, company and county officials said at the announcement. The lab will have the ability to subject full-sized, 2,000 square foot, one- and two-story homes, light commercial construction and agricultural buildings to a variety of hazards. In addition to the wind and rain from realistic Category 3 hurricanes, the lab can test for wind-blown fire, mimicking wildfire embers, and hailstorms.
The $40 million multi-peril research facility is to identify effective methods of minimizing risk and loss to homes, businesses, and communities resulting from natural disasters. It is paid for entirely by property insurance companies, reinsurers and brokers. The institute had $27 million in hand for the project when it was announced last October. It has since raised another $4 million, but will get a bond for the remaining $9 million, according to its president.
“We know it will come in, but we didn’t want to wait,” Julie Rochman, IBHS president and CEO told The N&R Thursday.
“When finished next year, this research facility will effectively represent a quantum leap forward for building science,” she said, according to a press release. “IBHS will be able to meticulously recreate a variety of natural catastrophes in a very controlled, repeatable environment. This will allow us to identify and evaluate various building material and construction techniques and systems in ways that have only been dreamed of by scientists, public policymakers and industry for many years.”
In addition, Rochman stated, all of IBHS research will be made publicly available, so that consumers and builders will know which products and systems provide the best protection against wind, water, fire and hail. This will be done both by creation of written reports, and via high-speed, high-definition video of the tests that will be shared with media and on the Web.
IBHS has been a leader in using building science to develop real-world approaches to reduce the risks posed by natural disasters and other perils. Events in recent years, including tornadoes, hurricanes and wildfires, have given IBHS researchers opportunities for field work, during which they have learned much about how to better engineer structures against certain risks. There remain, however, knowledge gaps that can be filled only with testing in controlled environments, which the new research center will provide.
The institute said when it announced last October it would broadcast some of its tests over the Internet when the facility is up and running. In advance of that, the company has time-lapsed photography of the site preparation available on its web site. A web camera at the construction site takes photos every 15 minutes. To view, go to http://oxblue.com/pro/open/ibhs/catastrophelab.
To view a 3D model video of what the testing facility will look like, click here.