Computer simulations predict everything from weather patterns to population growth to car crashes. But sometimes digital models aren't enough. When you absolutely must blast a house with category 3 hurricane winds and rain you have a new option. As of today, the insurance industry has a new toy — a $40 million research center that can hold 9 full-size houses (and the debris after each test) and simulate hurricanes, fires and other disasters. 105 massive fans supply the wind. A network of sprinklers dump 750,000 gallons of water. The cost for each test: up to $100,000, according to the Wall Street Journal. And it's worth the cost to the insurance industry.
Property and casualty insurers are looking to reduce their risk on the $9 trillion in U.S. property exposed to hurricanes from Texas to Maine. Insured catastrophic losses were $7.9 billion in the first half of 2010, up $200 million from 2009, according to the Insurance Information Institute in New York.
The new IBHS lab will be the first to replicate hurricanes with winds channeling water through homes and ripping off roofs, doors and windows. The center can also replicate wild fires.
"We can throw embers into the channel and introduce them into the wind field much like a wild fire," said Joseph King, a spokesman for the IBHS.
The Journal has a slideshow of photos taken inside the test center at their website.