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27 June, 2006 - 11:59 By Staff Reporter

Cambridge technology could aid development of hurricane-proof houses

Tech developer, Cambridge Consultants is developing a novel simulator that could help protect homes from the awesome power of Mother Nature.Tech developer, Cambridge Consultants is developing a novel simulator that could help protect homes from the awesome power of Mother Nature.

Cambridge Consultants is putting its new hurricane-force wind simulator through its paces before it is used to pulverise a full-size house at a research facility called the ‘Three Little Pigs’ in Canada.

Following a year of design and development work, the technology consultancy is testing its novel wind simulator, before delivery to the University of Western Ontario for pioneering research into wind damage on low-rise buildings.

The system is capable of generating pressures equivalent to a category 5 hurricane - winds exceeding 156 miles per hour – and can vary the speed and direction of air flow up to seven times a second. This allows an array of actuators to emulate the real-life swirling effects of destructive winds.

The design can also dynamically adjust flow rate to maintain pressure - even as a structure begins to disintegrate. The results of Western's research are expected to lead to more formal techniques for weather-proofing low-rise buildings in hurricane prone areas.

The simulator takes the form of modular pressure actuators, which are mounted against the exterior surface of a test structure. Each actuator can generate pressures equivalent to a category 5 hurricane, enabling realistic loads to be applied to full-size buildings for the first time.

A real-time control system, also being developed by Cambridge Consultants, will enable arrays of actuators to be co-ordinated to simulate complex wind effects over the entire surface of a test structure.

Western will use this simulation technology to apply realistic wind patterns onto real-world structures, beginning with a two-storey, pitched-roof dwelling currently nearing completion at 'The Three Little Pigs' research facility in London, Ontario.

Following completion of Cambridge Consultants’ development tests, Western expects to start commissioning the simulator this summer, using an initial batch of 10 actuators on a rig that will become a permanent facility for testing building materials. Around 100 modular actuators will then be fabricated, to create a wind simulator large enough to test complete low-rise buildings.

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