FIU Wall of Wind receives a $5.62 million NSF grant for hurricane research

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FIU’s Wall of Wind (WOW), a large-scale hurricane simulator capable of generating 157 mph wind speeds with rain intrusion, received a $5.62 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue as a national “Experimental Facility” under the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure program.

The funding will support WOW’s service to the U.S. scientific research community into late 2025. The Wall of Wind has a 12-fan 8,400 horsepower system and was inaugurated in August 2012 by FIU’s International Hurricane Research Center on the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew’s devastating passage through South Florida.

WOW’s state-of-the-art testing has led to improved codes and safer buildings. Basic research at the WOW, which is part of FIU’s Extreme Events Institute, has helped researchers from all across the country refine designs and experiments for repair and retrofit of existing and new buildings, systems, and components.

There are only eight NSF-supported Experimental Facilities in the United States, and only two for wind engineering. This new award will help make the facility available at a reasonable cost to NSF-supported researchers across the U.S.

“This award comes at a crucial time in U.S, history, where we are facing more storms of increasing intensity impacting vulnerable coastal communities,” said FIU Professor Arindam Gan Chowdhury, principal investigator and chair of the FIU Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the FIU College of Engineering and Computing. “It’s a race against time, and my colleagues and I are committed to providing a research and testing facility capable of reducing what I fear will be catastrophic losses.”

In 2015, NSF awarded FIU an initial $4.1 million that established the Wall of Wind as a national Experimental Facility under the NHERI program, a research network that includes the University of California-San Diego, Oregon State University, the University of Texas-Austin, the University of Florida, Purdue University, Lehigh University, the University of California-Davis, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Washington. The earlier award cemented FIU’s place as a hub for research into making homes, businesses, and communities safer in extreme wind events.

“This new award confirms the confidence that NSF has in the great science and effective management of this unique facility,” said Richard Olson, director of FIU’s Extreme Events Institute, an FIU Preeminent Program. “We are proud that the Wall of Wind continues to serve its intended purpose: to allow a multidisciplinary research community to help prevent massive losses of life and property during extreme natural events.”

The co-principal investigators on the grant include professor Ioannis Zisis, Amal Elawady, Peter Irwin, and Seung Jae Lee.

The award number is CMMI-2037899.


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