First-Of-Its-Kind Scale Windstorm Center At INEEL Turns On Its Fans

December 16, 1998

Idaho Falls, Idaho-Insurance companies, relief agencies, and governments are still picking up the pieces after one of the worst Atlantic hurricane seasons in recent history. At the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory a team of scientists and engineers is working with a scale model wind machine that will help architects and builders construct more hurricane resistant homes, with the ultimate goal of saving lives.

The experimental data collected from the test results will help scientists as they finish designs and begin construction of the larger pilot windstorm center, planned for 2003. Both facilities will produce high speed, turbulent winds to test a product's ability to withstand that force of nature.

The unique windstorm center has a bank of 18 fans in three layers that run at different speeds and different times, creating turbulence and 90 M.P.H. winds, simulating a natural storm. Traditional wind tunnels have a uniform flow of air, with one speed and one direction. The bank of fans in the Center produce wind, which is funneled down to increase intensity, and then directed by louvers and speed changes to produce wind gusts. The wind field created in the Center is equal to a category 1 hurricane.

"The test results will be able to benefit everyone," said Project Manager Cheryl O'Brien. "We're going to find affordable ways for everyone to better protect their homes and their families from severe storms-for instance, better shutter systems that we know actually work because they've been through full-size testing."

The Scale Windstorm Center, measuring 33 feet by 17 feet, is 1/14 the size of the Homesaver facility, which will eventually test full size homes and buildings by exposing them to severe, turbulent wind. In addition to testing commercial products, the Center will provide scientists with experimental data on performance of the model, like controllability of the blowers, air flow generation, and characterization of wind turbulence, aiding them as they further develop the pilot and, eventually, the full-size facility.

"I am thrilled about the pilot's opening," said O'Brien. "We've planned and built this model as a first step to Homesaver. It's exciting and surprising to learn how many potential customer interests are there now who will want to use this facility, which is just a model - and it's encouraging for Homesaver."

The Center will be open to the public for product testing in February. Customers like roofing and home product manufacturers from all over the country will be able to test windows, shutters or tie-down products for their ability to withstand high winds. For further information on the Scale Windstorm Center or for testing inquiries contact Cheryl O'Brien.

The Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory is operated for the U.S. Department of Energy by Lockheed Martin Idaho Technologies Company.

Deborah Hill (Idaho Falls), 208-526-4723,
Lynette Berriochoa (Boise), 208-334-9572,

Note to Editors: More information on the HomeSaver project, which includes an artist's rendering of the full-size facility, can be found at Cheryl O'Brien can be reached at 208-526-4105. Pictures of scale windstorm center are available from Mary Beckman.

DOE/Idaho National Laboratory

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