New lab tests building materials against Mother Nature's worst

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The new state-of-the-art Underwriter Laboratories in suburban Northbrook is putting building materials to the test against tornado-force winds and driving rain. (WLS)

The new state-of-the-art Underwriter Laboratories in suburban Northbrook is putting building materials to the test against tornado-force winds and driving rain.

The devastation in the wake of Hurricane Patricia last fall left buildings up and down the coast of Mexico and parts of Texas destroyed. The structures themselves are often not designed to withstand the strong winds and rain. That's why UL built a testing facility.

"We keep rebuilding our homes," said UL board member and former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency David Paulison.

To simulate hurricane conditions, they use a giant fan and hose. It blows water and wind at a variety of speeds up to 100 miles an hour.

On this day, the lab tests windows against 50 mph winds, and they are certified as able to withstand that windspeed.

The new lab is 63,000 square feet - enough space to simulate many different disasters, including tornadoes, which typically cause even more serious damage, and the objective is to keep people safe rather than keep the structure from breaking apart.

A cannon shoots a two-by-four at a wall at speeds up to 100 miles an hour. In one test, the structure dents. But the lumber doesn't penetrate.

The controlled-environment facility allows for year round testing regardless of the Chicago weather.
Related Topics:
newsweatherwindwind damagehurricanetornadoscienceNorthbrook
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