Insurance Blog

Finance Blogs » Insurance Blog » Inside the ‘Disaster Blaster’

Inside the ‘Disaster Blaster’

By Jay MacDonald ·
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Posted: 10 am ET

On a recent afternoon in a massive new facility in South Carolina, a team of homeowners insurance researchers spent $40 million to knock down a brand new two-story house in a little more than 12 minutes, then cheered afterward.

Sure, $40 million is a lot of money -- but it's peanuts compared to the insights that the Institute for Business and Home Safety, or IBHS, hopes to gain into the $26 billion that homeowners insurance companies spent last year alone to repair and rebuild wind-damaged homes.

In its video, Insurance Journal takes us inside the fortified concrete IBHS Research Center for some high-tech, high-spirited house blasting, three little pigs style, all in the name of science.

The six-story, 21,000-square-foot test chamber, nicknamed the "Disaster Blaster," contains 105 fans, each of which spans five feet and generates 300 horsepower, for a combined 90 miles per hour of wind equal to a Category 3 hurricane. The Disaster Blaster is capable of simulating the destruction of a neighborhood of nine homes.

The researchers built two homes side by side, both based on an actual Illinois floor plan. One was built to standards common throughout the country; the other to fortified standards that included metal joint straps, a second water barrier on the roof, enhanced decking material and specialized fasteners for attaching siding.

Yes, that's the fortified house standing unscathed in the video while its lesser twin is rather quickly reduced to a pile of lumber in the virtual backyard.

What's amazing is that the cost of the wind-rated upgrades to the house that survived was a mere $3,000.

Which ultimately is why homeowners insurance companies study this stuff. Their findings not only help shape future building codes, they often translate into discounts on your homeowners insurance rates if you fortify your home against the elements.

IBHS president and CEO Julie Rochman was a former exec with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which successfully convinced automakers to adopt life-saving and claims-reducing features that help lower auto insurance rates.

The IBHS hopes its Disaster Blaster can help blow down homeowners insurance rates, too.

Catch me on Twitter!

Subscribe to Bankrate newsletters today.

Bankrate wants to hear from you and encourages comments. We ask that you stay on topic, respect other people's opinions, and avoid profanity, offensive statements, and illegal content. Please keep in mind that we reserve the right to (but are not obligated to) edit or delete your comments. Please avoid posting private or confidential information, and also keep in mind that anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

By submitting a post, you agree to be bound by Bankrate's terms of use. Please refer to Bankrate's privacy policy for more information regarding Bankrate's privacy practices.
1 Comment