HURjimenaThe mission of the WHIP Center is to pursue research of interest to industry and government agencies to enhance the resiliency of buildings and infrastructure to extreme windstorms such as hurricanes and tornadoes.  The principal research themes are assessment of wind hazards, estimation of exposure and vulnerability of buildings and infrastructures, evaluaton of societal impact by wind hazards and improvement of community resilience.

Every year the United States is impacted by several wind hazards including hurricanes, tornadoes, and thunderstorms. As a result, buildings and infrastructure such as power, communication, transportation, and water systems suffer great damages causing fatalities and injuries and extensive property losses. According to Property Claim Services, U.S. insured catastrophe losses between 1997 and 2016 were over $421 billion, a total that translates to $21 billion in annual insured losses. Almost 80% of these insured losses are caused by windstorm events. The total loss to the country due to wind hazards is almost twice the insured losses. Future losses from windstorms are likely to increase because of the growing population in hazard-prone regions, aging infrastructure, and changing climate.

Debris Impact Facility at Texas Tech UniversityUnless focused research, development and implementation in resiliency in infrastructure is pursued, the property losses will continue to increase. Protecting homeowners, businesses, and communities from wind hazards involves stakeholders across many geographical boundaries and industry sectors. Therefore, the established NSF I/UCRC WHIP adopts a broad-based approach, and is aimed at serving members in the industries of insurance and construction.  The construction industry is defined broadly as the industry that designs, engineers, constructs, manages and maintains buildings and infrastructure.   

The insurance industry protects the assets of its policyholders by transferring risk from an individual or business to an insurance company. In addition to private insurers are the government’s natural catastrophe insurance programs which have filled gaps in the private insurance markets and helped to limit disaster relief payments. Since the price of property insurance is affected by the annual expected loss and the cost of diversifying the risk of catastrophic losses, one of the key objectives of an insurer is to set the premium to a proper level allowing companies to be profitable, competitive, and able to pay claims and expenses as they occur. Reducing damages to insured properties has a beneficial impact to the insurance industry.

Commercial construction includes commercial, and institutional buildings along with civil infrastructures such as transmission lines, telecommunication facilities, etc., while residential construction includes multi-family housing and single-family homes. The number of people involved in construction industry in 2016 was 8.6 million in the U.S., and had spending of about $1,200 billion. However, U.S. contractors, architects, and engineers invested less than 0.05 percent in R&D as a group, mainly because of intense price competition and few mechanisms to facilitate joint funding of research that will yield distinct benefits to the participating firms. The WHIP Center provides an avenue by which the construction industry (broadly speaking) can gain leverage of investment by NSF, expertise and facilities of academic institutions, and collaboration with other companies to enhance resiliency products in this competitive market.