Canadian Consulting Engineer

Huff and puff – Three Little Pigs laboratory helps engineers design buildings that won’t fall down

A new research facility is being built at the University of Western Ontario for engineers to test full-scale models...

April 27, 2004   Canadian Consulting Engineer

A new research facility is being built at the University of Western Ontario for engineers to test full-scale models of houses and light-frame buildings to see how they can withstand extreme weather storms, tornadoes and hurricanes. Insurers believe such storms are becoming more common and estimate storms account for more than $1 billion in property damage a year. Last September, for example, Hurricane Juan destroyed a huge swath of property and coastline in Nova Scotia.
The 13,000-m3 testing facility is being built as part of a joint project by the University of Western Ontario in London and the insurance industry’s Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction. Researchers from the University of Toronto and the University of Oregon are also taking part.
Nicknamed the “Three Little Pigs” facility, the $7 million research facility is the first in the world to allow researchers to test full-scale structures of this type to the point of failure. Besides doing tests for structural loadings, the research team will be investigating the effects of rain penetration on buildings, with an eye on avoiding more problems such as the British Columbia “Leaky Condo Crisis,” of a few years. ago. The researchers are hoping to be able to use the results to develop solutions and modify building codes.
Professor Mike Bartlett of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Western Ontario is taking a leading part in the research facility.

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