Commercial Building Wind Demo

On July 17, 2012,  IBHS conducted the first  high-wind test of commercial structures inside the IBHS Research Center. Please use the links below to navigate this page, which contains information about the test and why this building science research is important for business owners who face high-wind risks. 

Quick Links 

Test Resources – test facts, videos and photos.

About the Test - focus of the test and key facts.

About the IBHS Research Center – overview, frequently asked questions, top 10 facts and videos from prior hazard tests of residential construction.

Test Resources

Videos from the July 17, 2012 Test 

News Coverage

“Wake Up with Al” (The Weather Channel)

Test Highlights

  • The top wind gust during the test was 136 mph or the equivalent of a 97 mph one-minute sustained wind speed. All wind speeds are referenced to standard open country conditions at an elevation of 10 m (33 ft.).
  • At what wind speeds did the following components on the common practice construction building fail?:
    • Flashing: 73 mph wind gust, which is the equivalent of a 52 mph one-minute sustained wind speed
    • Roll-up Door: 115 mph wind gust
    • Wall: after the 2×4, which simulated a tree branch, shattered the window, the wall separated from the building during a 110 mph wind gust, which is the equivalent of 79 mph one-minute sustained wind speed.
      • Note the importance of window protection: Before the window was broken the building’s walls survived a 136 mph wind gust, which is the equivalent of a 97 mph one-minute sustained wind speed. 
  • The key message from the test: use the right products and install them correctly to achieve the best results. The way you put a building together makes all of the difference in how it performs in high winds.
  • The test was a success and went as planned.The results of the test were as expected with the failure of flashing, the roll-up door, the window and the roof cover attachment.It cost less than 5 percent more to build the stronger building as compared to the construction cost of the common practice building. In many areas, 5 percent is less than the cost of sales tax.
  • The test buildings were set up as diners and inventory was included in the back near the roll-up door.
    • In the common construction practice building, once the wind got inside the inventory was damaged and lost.
    • In the stronger construction building, once the simulated “tree branch” shattered the front window it also displaced some of the inventory. This highlights the importance of window and door protection even in strong construction.

Test Photos


About the Test

This test clearly demonstrated that:

  • Better built structures are needed to protect consumers and workers in commercial buildings.
  • Small business owners, who want to stay in business and quickly recover from catastrophes, should lease, buy or build stronger, safer structures.
  • Carefully following high-wind construction guidance and choosing slightly more expensive products and systems can produce significantly stronger, safer buildings.
  • While cost differences will vary depending on the size and shape of commercial buildings, for less than 5% of the total cost of the building type IBHS will use in today’s test, business owners can have the peace of mind that they have a stronger, safer structure that is more disaster-resistant than a building built using common practice construction.

 The test addressed insurance losses and concerns, and increased awareness of commercial-related losses that have a substantial economic and societal impact.

IBHS consulted with a number of organizations to produce this test demonstration including the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers, the Door and Access Systems Manufacturers Association, FM Approvals and FM Global, the Masonry Association of Florida, the National Concrete Masonry Association, the National Roofing Contractors Association, the Roofing Industry Committee on Weather Issues, and the Single Ply Roofing Industry.

Key Facts About the Test Structures

  • The test was intended to compare and contrast the high-wind performance of full-scale commercial strip mall-type structures; one was built using common construction practices and the other was built using stronger, safer wind-resistant elements. Actual high-wind events modeled after actual thunderstorm and hurricane conditions were simulated using IBHS’ 105-fan array. 
  • The two 30 ft. by 20 ft., one-story masonry specimens were placed side by side on the 55-ft. diameter turntable inside the IBHS Research Center’s large test chamber.  
  • Both structures were equipped with FM Approved roofing assemblies, including the roof cover, roof deck, perimeter flashing and insulation. The difference between the two structures is that on the stronger building these items were installed using FM Global Standards, while this was not the case for the common practice building. 
  • The components used to make the resilient building stronger and safer cost less than 5% of the total cost of the entire structure.
  • IBHS consulted with a number of organizations during the design and production of this demonstration, including the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers, the Door and Access Systems Manufacturers Association, FM Approvals and FM Global, the Masonry Association of Florida, the National Concrete Masonry Association, the National Roofing Contractors Association, the Roofing Industry Committee on Weather Issues, and the Single Ply Roofing Industry.

How the Test Can Benefit Business Owners  

By focusing on several key components when constructing a new business, including the roof, the doors, and the walls, business owners can significantly improve commercial building performance by utilizing relatively low-cost mitigation measures as outlined below:


DOWNLOAD Roof Fact Sheet

  • Damage to single-ply membrane roofs can be reduced by using fastening that meets enhanced standards for attachment of single-ply membrane roofs and perimeter edge flashing.
  • Roof-top equipment can remain in place, intact, and operational during a windstorm if properly anchored.

Roll-Up/Warehouse Doors

  • Including wind locks will prevent overhead roll-up doors from popping out of their tracks during a windstorm. Choose wind-rated roll-up doors over conventional types, which lack these locking mechanisms; this is a common failure point in commercial buildings. 

Masonry Walls

DOWNLOAD Masonry Fact Sheet

  • Using masonry industry reinforcing guidelines will enable walls to stand strong in a windstorm. Proper reinforcement can reduce structural damage that could lead to potentially catastrophic consequences. 
  • In many older buildings, reinforcing of masonry was insufficient. Even today, in many parts of the country, masonry buildings are built the way they have always been built – without the amount of reinforcing recommended by national consensus guidelines and without ensuring that reinforcing is properly detailed and connected. 

DOWNLOAD Details Make the Difference: Stronger Construction Techniques


Real-World Examples of Commercial Wind Damage: Photos from IBHS Field Research


Commercial Disaster Facts

Wind damage to commercial property is a growing concern, according to insurance industry data:

  • In 1989, $7 billion in commercial losses were due to fires compared to $2 billion in losses due to wind; by 2009 wind losses had surpassed $7 billion, while fire losses were approaching $8 billion, according to data from IBHS member, ISO’s Property Claim Services®.

  • A week of windstorms in April 2011 caused nearly $5 million in physical damage to the structures and contents of commercial and industrial properties and homes, according to IBHS member AIR Worldwide. The estimates also include additional living expenses (ALE) for residential claims and business interruption losses.

  • The “perfect storm” of population growth and building expansion in coastal counties combined with an increase in severe wind events has driven wind losses to historic proportions, according to AIR Worldwide.

  • One in four businesses that close during a disaster do not reopen, according to IBHS.

  • Tremendous growth in coastal populations has fueled much of the increase in commercial wind losses, ISO found. For example, in Harris County (Houston), Texas, the population is approaching 4 million, while in 1930, it was less than 400,000. From North Carolina to Florida, the population also has grown exponentially during the last 30 to 40 years.  

  • Eighteen of the top 20 catastrophic events since 1985, as identified by ISO’s Property Claim Services®, involved wind: 15 hurricanes and three tornadoes. The remaining two events were the 1994 Northridge earthquake and the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

  • Of the 18 wind events, 13 occurred during the 2000s — when property values and population densities were peaking, ISO’s Property Claim Services® found. 

  • Strengthening of commercial buildings can help narrow the path of damage in tornadoes and other high-wind events, according to IBHS. Commercial structures, which frequently have large windows and roll-up doors, can be severely damaged even on the periphery of a tornado when tree limbs and other items are picked up by high winds. This damage widens the overall damage footprint of the storm. 

  • Small businesses are vital to the American economy. The 23 million small businesses in America account for 54% of all U.S. sales, according to the Small Business Administration. 

  • Further, the small business sector in America occupies 30-50 percent of all commercial space, an estimated 20-34 billion square feet.


About the IBHS Research Center

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) Research Center is a unique, state-of-the-art, multi-risk applied research and training in Chester County, South Carolina. This facility is a tangible, very public demonstration of the property insurance industry’s deep commitment to reducing and preventing losses that disrupt the lives of millions of home and business owners each year. The scientific research conducted here will influence residential and commercial structural design and construction for decades to come, and will significantly advance building science by enabling researchers to more fully and accurately evaluate various residential and commercial construction materials and systems.