IBHS Hurricane Testing

IBHS Conducts Dynamic Testing in Massive Wind Tunnel with OptiTrack Motion Capture Tech

Nonprofit Simulates Extreme Weather Conditions to Evaluate Structural Limitations

As hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters continue to inflict catastrophic damage to residential and commercial communities each year, IBHS (Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety) objectively examines how to strengthen homes, businesses and communities against such unforeseen events. Located in Chester County, South Carolina, IBHS’ Research Center is the only lab in the world of its kind; it houses a test chamber – six stories tall and 145’ wide by 145’ long – capable of testing full-scale one- and two-story residential and commercial buildings in controlled, highly realistic windstorms, wind-driven rain, hailstorms and wildfire ember storms.

IHBS Hurricane House
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To simulate and measure the effects of these varied weather conditions, IBHS employs an array of equipment, including a wall of fans, hail cannon, 55’ diameter turntable fixed in the floor that can rotate full-scale buildings and an OptiTrack motion capture system comprising Prime 41 motion capture cameras and Motive software. IBHS researchers first implemented the OptiTrack system to study the effects of high wind on roof-mounted solar panels, a potentially perilous scenario for solar-powered data centers should a hurricane barrel through town.

During its initial evaluation of OptiTrack technology, IBHS put the system to work, validating its sub-mm 3D accuracy that delivers essential predictive data in testing. Lightweight retro-reflective markers placed on and around the solar panels enable precise, dynamic measurement, without adding mass.

IHBS Hurricane House

Leveraging Motive’s open SDK, researchers have integrated sample code into MatLab, which also controls the chamber’s tunnel functions. Linked with eSync, MatLab triggers the OptiTrack system to automatically begin recording whenever testing is conducted.