An accessible experiment to assess the impact of shapes of buildings and roofs on wind resistance

(1) Benjamin Franklin High School, New Orleans, Louisiana, (2) School of Ocean Science and Engineering, The University of Southern Mississippi, Ocean Springs, Mississippi

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Hurricanes cause extensive amounts of damage in coastal communities each year. Rebuilding is costly, and the impact of hurricanes can be alleviated by mitigating the destruction to buildings. As such, buildings that are resistant to high winds are the key to increasing the resilience of communities to hurricanes. Here, we designed an accessible experiment to evaluate the effects of house and roof shape on wind resistance. We built four types of house models: box-shaped houses with pyramid hip roofs, box-shaped houses with flat roofs, round houses with pyramid hip roofs, and round houses with flat roofs. To evaluate the stability of these house models, we applied strong winds using a leaf blower. We determined stability by measuring the distance between the leaf blower and the house models when they were blown away, and the time it took for the houses to be blown away if the distance was 0 cm. The smaller the distance and the longer the time, the more resistant the houses are to strong winds. We found round houses were more resistant to strong winds than box-shaped houses, and houses with pyramid hip roofs were more resistant to strong winds than houses with flat roofs if other attributes of the houses were kept the same. Furthermore, we found roof shape was more important than house shape among the different combinations of house shapes and roof shapes we studied. Our study provides scientific data to facilitate policy making in improving coastal resilience, particularly through updating building codes that account for house and roof shape.

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