Effects of airborne burning embers to be tested on structures


IBHS facility in Chester County, SC. Photo courtesy of Duke Energy

You may have heard about the huge wind tunnel testing facility operated by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) in Chester County, South Carolina that opened last October. Using 150 105 huge fans, it is capable of generating wind equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane. A lot of wind tunnels can do that, but what makes this one different is that the interior test bed is large enough for nine two-story structures. It’s primary purpose is to test construction methods and materials in order to design structures that are more resistant to natural disasters. It can simulate wind, rain, and fire.

Now there are plans to use it to learn more about the effects of wind-blown burning embers on structures. Here is an excerpt from an IBHS press release:

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), the U.S. Department of Energy’sSavannah River National Laboratory (SRNL), the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Technology (DHS S&T) Directorate will hold a demonstration of the wildfire research being conducted at the IBHS Research Center in Chester County, S.C. on Thursday, March 24.


Equipment capable of injecting burning embers into the wind stream in the IBHS Research Center’s large testing chamber has been developed. Ductwork will allow burning embers to be injected into the wind stream throughout the 65-foot wide by 30-foot tall wind field created by the 15 groups of vane-axial fans. This system will enable the researcher to reproduce ember storms typical of wildfire events, replicating the along-wind and across-wind turbulence characteristics of natural winds occurring in wildfire conditions as well as the embers carried in those winds. These factors will allow IBHS researchers to produce much more accurate simulations of ember attacks on building components, including attic vents and complex roof shapes, and the gusty nature of the wind environment associated with an ember attack during a wind-driven wildfire event.

Here is a video that shows two homes being tested in the facility. One has conventional construction, and the other is “fortified”.

Thanks Dick

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.