Institute for Business and Home Safety Research Center


Institute for Business and Home


Construction Cost
$36 million

Completion Date

Project Size
43,000 SF

Institute for Business and Home Safety Research Center

South Carolina

In an effort to make buildings safer and to reduce insured losses to property, major insurance companies, working through the Institute for Business and Home Safety, built a new 54,000 SF research center. This center performs full-scale tests on two-story homes, manufactured homes and small commercial buildings under a myriad of catastrophic threats.

The $36 million complex is centered on a 145’ square test chamber with the capacity to test homes with up to 140 mph wind speeds. The wind is generated by one hundred and five 5’-6” diameter fans, in a precast concrete tower, located in an arc 100’ away. There is also rain and hail producing equipment in the test chamber to interact with the winds. Other tests simulate firestorms as low velocity winds blow burning embers over the test structures. To simulate the varying directions from which wind or debris may strike test structures, each specimen is mounted on a 55-foot diameter turntable. This turntable is capable of supporting a weight of 540,000 pounds, as well as overturning loads from the anchored building structure. In addition to the test chamber, the facility includes observation areas, catwalks with video equipment, offices, labs, and storage space.

Due to the extreme conditions within the test chamber, many design measures were taken to protect the facility. To protect against spreading fire, a 65’x65’ deluge sprinkler system was designed to be suspended over the test specimen. This deluge system is mounted on a motorized rigging system that can be lowered to protect a building from fire, or hoisted 30 feet to stay clear during a wind test. The walls of the facility were made of precast concrete to withstand impact from flying debris and to control vibration due to the fan motors. All exposed steel is galvanized to protect from possible corrosion during frequent wet/dry cycles. Walls are acoustically designed to protect observers from the intense noise generated by the fans.