Executive Summary

The Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL), through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), has proposed that a large-scale wind test facility (LSWTF) be constructed to study, in full-scale, the behavior of low-rise structures under simulated extreme wind conditions. To determine the need for, and potential benefits of, such a facility, the Idaho Operations Office of the DOE requested that the National Research Council (NRC) perform an independent assessment of the role and potential value of an LSWTF in the overall context of wind engineering research. The NRC established the Committee to Review the Need for a Large-scale Test Facility for Research on the Effects of Extreme Winds on Structures, under the auspices of the Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment, to perform this assessment. This report conveys the results of the committee's deliberations as well as its findings and recommendations.

Data developed at large-scale would enhance our understanding of how structures, particularly light-frame structures, are affected by extreme winds (e.g., hurricanes, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and other events). Existing field data are based on observations and measurements of winds associated with the passage of frontal systems and a limited number of strong wind events. However, significant gaps exist in the meteorological data for severe wind events. Most data on structural loading has been derived from testing small-scale models in turbulent boundary-layer wind flow simulations; performance data have been collected from post-storm damage assessments and simplified tests of full-sized components. Mobile instrumentation systems have also been deployed in advance of storms to obtain data on the nature of extreme winds. New projects are being initiated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the DOE, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and several universities to gather wind data, measure structural loading, and observe structural performance during extreme wind events.

With a large-scale wind test facility, full-sized structures, such as site-built or manufactured housing and small commercial or industrial buildings, could be tested under a range of wind conditions in a controlled, repeatable environment. At this time, the United States has no facility specifically constructed for this purpose. The use of aeronautical testing facilities, such as the facilities operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at the Ames Research Center, has been discussed. However, additional study will be needed to determine if facilities of this type can be effectively used for large-scale structural research.

During the course of this study, the authoring committee was confronted by two difficult questions: (1) does the lack of a facility equate to a need for the facility? and (2) is need alone sufficient justification for the construction of a facility? These questions might not have engaged the committee at all if considerable resources were already available for wind engineering research and a coordinated national wind-hazard reduction program were in place. The committee found, however, that funding for research in wind engineering is only a few million dollars annually, and, despite some excellent programs and activities by government agencies and research institutions, research has not been strategically planned, coordinated, managed, or funded. Therefore, the committee raised a third question: would the benefits derived from



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Executive Summary The Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL), through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), has proposed that a large-scale wind test facility (LSWTF) be constructed to study, in full-scale, the behavior of low-rise structures under simulated extreme wind conditions. To determine the need for, and potential benefits of, such a facility, the Idaho Operations Office of the DOE requested that the National Research Council (NRC) perform an independent assessment of the role and potential value of an LSWTF in the overall context of wind engineering research. The NRC established the Committee to Review the Need for a Large-scale Test Facility for Research on the Effects of Extreme Winds on Structures, under the auspices of the Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment, to perform this assessment. This report conveys the results of the committee's deliberations as well as its findings and recommendations. Data developed at large-scale would enhance our understanding of how structures, particularly light-frame structures, are affected by extreme winds (e.g., hurricanes, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and other events). Existing field data are based on observations and measurements of winds associated with the passage of frontal systems and a limited number of strong wind events. However, significant gaps exist in the meteorological data for severe wind events. Most data on structural loading has been derived from testing small-scale models in turbulent boundary-layer wind flow simulations; performance data have been collected from post-storm damage assessments and simplified tests of full-sized components. Mobile instrumentation systems have also been deployed in advance of storms to obtain data on the nature of extreme winds. New projects are being initiated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the DOE, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and several universities to gather wind data, measure structural loading, and observe structural performance during extreme wind events. With a large-scale wind test facility, full-sized structures, such as site-built or manufactured housing and small commercial or industrial buildings, could be tested under a range of wind conditions in a controlled, repeatable environment. At this time, the United States has no facility specifically constructed for this purpose. The use of aeronautical testing facilities, such as the facilities operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at the Ames Research Center, has been discussed. However, additional study will be needed to determine if facilities of this type can be effectively used for large-scale structural research. During the course of this study, the authoring committee was confronted by two difficult questions: (1) does the lack of a facility equate to a need for the facility? and (2) is need alone sufficient justification for the construction of a facility? These questions might not have engaged the committee at all if considerable resources were already available for wind engineering research and a coordinated national wind-hazard reduction program were in place. The committee found, however, that funding for research in wind engineering is only a few million dollars annually, and, despite some excellent programs and activities by government agencies and research institutions, research has not been strategically planned, coordinated, managed, or funded. Therefore, the committee raised a third question: would the benefits derived from

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information produced in an LSWTF justify the costs of producing that information? The committee's evaluation of the need and justification for an LSWTF was shaped by these realities. The committee's evaluation is based on the logic tree shown in Figure ES-1. FIGURE ES-1 Logic tree used to assess the need for an LSWTF. Based on the information available, as well as on the considerable experience of committee members in the field of wind-hazard reduction and large-scale structural research, the committee concluded that an LSWTF is unsupportable on both technical and economic grounds and recommends that the DOE not construct such a facility. The committee believes that the interests of DOE, as well as the national interest, would be best served by DOE's participation in a cooperative effort involving federal government agencies, state and local governments, and research institutions, including universities and government laboratories. The cooperative effort should set research priorities, coordinate ongoing research, identify new opportunities, provide outreach to the building community and the general public, and implement new technologies and practices as they become available. To realize this program, the committee urges—in the strongest possible terms—that Congress consider designating funds for a coordinated national wind-hazard reduction program that encourages partnerships between federal, state, and local governments, private industry, the research community, and other interested stakeholders.