Natural disasters can have a devastating effect on society, affecting people and infrastructure in often unalterable ways. Andrew, Katrina and Sandy are just a few of the powerful hurricanes that have greatly affected our nation.
Hurricane-resilient infrastructure has a champion in CEE’s Ioannis Zisis. As assistant professor of structural and environmental wind engineering, Zisis has a particular interest in the research areas of wind-structure interaction and experimental wind engineering methods. The specific research areas deal with the effects of wind to the built environment, which Zisis has been studying by using field observations, models and full-scale experimental approaches, as well as numerical simulation techniques. A significant portion of the particular research activity is directed towards the codification of the research outcomes.
“FIU is in the forefront of wind engineering research”
For Zisis, FIU was a unique opportunity to join a team of wind engineering experts and be part of something that is aiming to WOW the wind engineering community. The International Hurricane Research Center, an interdisciplinary research center at FIU, focuses on the mitigation of hurricane damage, opened the Wall of Wind (WOW) in August 2012. WOW is the largest and most powerful university research facility of its kind and is capable of simulating a Category 5 hurricane – the highest rating on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale – over a cross section 20 feet wide by 14 feet high (6.1 by 4.3 meters). The facility also includes a carefully calibrated flow management system, which employs spires and floor roughness elements to simulate realistic hurricane characteristics with turbulence, gusting and atmospheric boundary layer conditions. The 12-fan WOW hurricane simulator is housed inside an 8,000 square foot building dedicated to wind engineering research. It is remotely operated from an auxiliary Operations and Control Center that contains a dedicated control room, conference area, and office space for students and the laboratory staff. Each of the individual 700 horsepower electric fan motors measures six feet in diameter and weighs approximately 15,000 pounds. The Wall of Wind program has been a strong partnership with federal and state and industry including: State of Florida Division of Emergency Management, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, Renaissance Reinsurance, and the Roof Alliance Industry among others.