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Wind Investigation Program

In 1989, Oak Ridge National Laboratory held two workshops devoted to identifying and discussing roof wind uplift issues and alternatives. Discussions of important technical issues included causes of roof wind damage, dynamic testing of roof systems, the importance of sample size for tests, the role of wind tunnels, air retarders, and the need for acceptable procedures for ballasted systems. There was also concern for the general lack of communication within the roofing industry as to what the problems are, what is being done to alleviate them, and how effectively technology transfer is accomplished within the roofing industry and the building community. At the conclusion of the workshops, a consensus recommendation was to form a committee to address these matters. The Roofing Industry Committee on Wind Issues (RICOWI) was established and the Charter approved October 11, 1990.

Subsequent to RICOWI's formation, other concerns were raised. The insurance industry conveyed their concern regarding excessive property loss from windstorms. They estimated that from 1984 to 2003 hurricanes and high winds have accounted for nearly 64% of catastrophic losses. Insured losses from hurricanes reach billions of dollars each year. In August 1992, Hurricane Andrew caused $16 billion in insured losses. A one-month period of hurricanes in 2004 resulted in more than $20 billion in insured losses. Of the top ten most costly catastrophes to ever hit the United States, 8 are hurricanes or a tropical storm. Hurricane Katrina has now set new loss records.

There is an essential link between product research, performance and the model building codes. The model code groups are moving more toward "objective based codes" versus "prescriptive codes." Performance requirements are generally perceived to be requirements stated in a way that allows flexibility in the choice of solutions to satisfy the requirements and are based upon explicitly stated objectives. Code changes are being adopted by the model code groups without adequate industry input. In addition, there is a general feeling that the right type of data, following an event, has not been gathered. There is no question that all roofing products and systems of all roofing manufacturers are going to have to meet more rigorous specifications and will be subject to tougher scrutiny of building departments such as we have seen in Dade and Broward counties (FL). Industry involvement in follow-up of wind events is imperative.

RICOWI and the Department of Energy / Oak Ridge National Laboratory responded to industry involvement by entering into a Cooperative Research Development Agreement (CRADA) to facilitate the Wind Investigation Program (WIP). The Program includes all of the major roofing trade associations in North America. In 1996, a pool of eighty investigators were trained in wind issues by the country's leading scientists and others qualified in examining wind damage to roofing systems. The Program identifies an event as A major hurricane making landfall in a heavily populated area in Florida, or in an area previously investigated by RICOWI, with wind speeds at or above ASCE 7-2005 design levels based on early projections by NOAA/NHC and/or other credible sources. Alternatively, a hurricane similarly projected by NOAA/NHC to include one-minute sustained wind speeds equal or greater than 95 mph (Category II) making landfall along the northeast corridor.

The WIP mission is to investigate the field performance of roof assemblies after major wind storm events, factually describe roof assembly performance and modes of damage, and formally report results of investigations and damage modes for substantiated wind speeds.

This Program will put credible people in the field that have the required product knowledge and program training to ensure that sound, scientific and unbiased reporting occurs. Buildings will be safer, property losses will be reduced and industry will meet the challenge with clear insight as to needed direction. The reports generated by our investigation teams and findings will be utilized to help educate, improve products, installation techniques, safety and reduce overall roofing and insurance costs for the industry. The results will also provide a valuable resource to FEMA and state emergency management agencies.

RICOWI has now conducted five of the most comprehensive roofing investigations of hurricane stricken areas immediately following Hurricanes Charley (Aug. 13/04), Ivan (Sept. 16/04), Katrina (Aug. 29/05), Ike (Sept. 13/08), and IRMA (Oct.31/17). The reports can be downloaded at no cost.

Based on the success of the past investigations, RICOWI's Board of Directors approved a hurricane investigation for 2018. When an event occurs, up to eight four-members teams will be assembled, along with several observers. A logistics team will be deployed immediately following the storm to target damaged areas, select specific buildings and make the preliminary contacts.

RICOWI has a similar program for hail investigations. For additional information, contact RICOWI's Executive Director, Joan T. Cook at the Ohio office: 330-671-4569 or email jcook@ricowi.com.

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