AAMA Contributes Funds for Hurricane Research Equipment

The American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) is contributing to funding to support the efforts of wind engineering researchers at the University of Florida who are examining wind-driven rain at structural height during hurricane landfall. Rich Walker, president and chief executive officer of AAMA, announced the donation of $60,000 to purchase a precipitation imaging probe (PIP), manufactured by Droplet Measurement Technologies.

"Approval was expedited through AAMA's board of directors during its National Summer Conference so that a critical measuring instrument would be in place for recording hurricanes in the 2007 season," Walker said.

The probe is designed to capture high-resolution measurements of rainfall intensity. Dr. Forrest Masters, assistant professor of civil and coastal engineering, will deploy the instrument on a specially-designed, rugged tower hours before a hurricane's landfall to capture the storm's worst conditions. Using real-time cellular and satellite uplinks, data from the PIP also will be available in real-time to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) meteorologists and state and federal emergency managers.

"Beyond the ability of a building to physically withstand hurricane winds, water intrusion through windows, doors and walls remain a recurring issue," says John Lewis, AAMA technical director. "Although most residential and commercial buildings built to recent codes will survive structurally, rain penetration often causes significant interior damage, occupant displacement, business interruption and extensive restoration expenses. Code officials, architects and manufacturers of exterior building products are questioning the real-world effectiveness of water intrusion test standards under hurricane conditions as referenced by modern building codes."

The AAMA Southeast Region is currently developing a Voluntary Specification for Rating the Severe Wind-Driven Rain Resistance of Windows, Doors and Unit Skylights.

"Instead of the usual pass/fail measurements, this AAMA specification applies a spectrum of pulsating pressure and rain loads and determines how well a product performs in severe wind-driven rain," Lewis says. "The research, underway at the University of Florida, will further the value of the AAMA specification by quantifying hurricane-driven rain and its effects on residential and light commercial construction."

Data from the PIP devices collected during this and upcoming Atlantic hurricane seasons will be used to establish a catalog of "wind-driven rain scenarios" for different storm intensities impacting various terrains. The information will be used to calibrate the rain field produced by UF's mobile windstorm simulator to recreate hurricane-force winds and wind-driven rain at a sufficient scale to test low-rise components and cladding systems. Utilizing four 700 hp Detroit Diesel engines and hydraulic drive units to power eight 54-inch vane axial fans, this apparatus will produce hurricane force winds and wind-driven rain at its 10- by 10-foot exit.

Actual full-size structural mockups will be evaluated in realistic hurricane conditions, according to Lewis. All research will be coordinated with established program partners such as AAMA, as well as Florida building code officials.