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RESTON, Va. – The National Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) Wall of Wind (WOW) Experimental Facility (EF) located at Florida International University (FIU), was awarded the 2018 Charles Pankow Award for Innovation by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The NHERI WOW EF innovation will be recognized during ASCE’s annual Outstanding Projects and Leaders (OPAL) Gala on March 15, 2018.

The award recognizes outstanding organizations that have collaborated to practice innovative design, materials, or construction-related research and development.

The NHERI WOW EF uses a 12-fan system to provide experimental capabilities including generating wind speeds up to 157 miles per hour, or Category 5 Hurricane wind. This simulation allows civil engineers to understand the effects of extreme wind and rain on civil infrastructure systems, explore mitigation and resiliency techniques and promote sustainable design practices. By testing sustainable and resilient engineering systems with the NHERI WOW EF, civil engineers can work to mitigate hurricane impacts and prevent wind hazards from becoming community disasters.

“As we face more extreme weather events, our work at the Wall of Wind becomes ever more crucial for wind hazard and hurricane risk reduction,” said Richard S. Olson, director of FIU’s Extreme Events Institute and International Hurricane Research Center (IHRC). WOW is a collaboration between the IHRC and wind engineers in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at FIU’s College of Engineering & Computing. “This award recognizes the Wall of Wind’s pioneering research, where the faculty are committed to improving building standards and practices and achieving safer and more hurricane-resistant communities.”

The NHERI WOW EF was created by a team of 9 members led by Principal Investigator Arindam Chowdhury. Chowdhury leads the scientific and operational vision of this innovative facility while facilitating educational and outreach activities.

The NHERI Wall of Wind EF team, from left: Raphael Greenbaum, Ashkan Rasouli, Amal Elawady, Walter Conklin, Roy Liu, Peter Irwin, Arindam Gan Chowdhury, Ioannis Zisis, Maryam Refan.

According to Chowdhury, “The scientific vision of the NHERI WOW EF is to enable frontier research and education to impart resiliency and sustainability to new and existing building and cladding systems, and to lifeline infrastructure. Holistic testing of large models and integrated component assemblies is helping NSF-supported external users to gain new knowledge on wind and rain damage, cascading failures, and structural/functional fragilities, with and without retrofitting strategies.

“Moreover, the WOW’s unique capabilities in terms of high Reynolds number experimentation is initiating a new chapter in multi-, cross-, and trans-disciplinary research that requires study of complex flows and their effects on structures. This helps the WOW to cross the traditional borders of wind engineering research and create an additional niche in fundamental fluid mechanics research.”

Recent projects that have utilized the NHERI WOW EF include Experimentally Validated Stochastic Numerical Framework to Generate Multi-Dimensional Fragilities for Hurricane Resilience Enhancement of Transmission Systems, led by Principal Investigator Abdollah Shafieezadeh of Ohio State University, and Uncovering Potential Risks of Wind-Induced Cascading Damages to Construction Projects and Neighboring Communities, led by Principal Investigator Youngjib Ham of Texas A&M University.