IBHS & HWind collaborate to better understand hurricane impacts

by Artemis on March 30, 2015

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is collaborating with HWind Scientific, LLC, a provider of real-time, objective, observation-based hurricane data, in order to better understand how hurricane winds affect building structures.

The insurance, reinsurance and insurance-linked securities (ILS) market is often more focused on the outputs of their risk models, providing them with probabilities and loss estimates, but sometimes these do not provide a granular view of how wind speeds can affect different types of structures.

The IBHS’ work looks to understand how natural perils such as hurricane force wind speeds can affect building integrity and structure, by using HWind Scientific, LLC‘s detailed archive of significant historical hurricane data, to associate winds from specific storms to its building performance research.

“While scientists and engineers learn from laboratory studies at the IBHS Research Center, it is very important to consistently compare lab findings with field observations of real buildings exposed to similar wind events,” stated Dr. Anne Cope, vice president of research for IBHS.

“HWS wind fields are a source we trust when we work to relate the wind conditions at a post-disaster site to the observed hurricane damage. HWS technology collects data from all available real-time sources and normalizes it to standard meteorological reporting conditions, allowing them to produce wind-field maps that truly reflect the characteristics of each hurricane,” Cope explained.

At the IBHS Research Center the organisation is able to take hurricane research to new levels, including being able to test full-scale building performance. That allows IBHS to evaluate component and connection strength as well as system effects. The Research Center has the capability to reproduce realistic hurricane conditions, including the gust structure of high winds, debris impacts and water intrusion from wind-drive rain.

“HWS is pleased to work with IBHS to further its goal of translating its building science research into real world resilience,” commented HWind Scientific CEO Dr. Mark Powell. “When IBHS researchers are sent into the field to survey the damage on the ground following a hurricane, HWS real-time data can help them focus on the locations likely to have experienced the most damage. Ultimately this will result in better guidance for home and business owners as they seek cost effective ways to reduce property damage and losses.”

“HWS is an important tool we use in communicating what really happened in particular areas impacted by a storm,” said Dr. Tim Reinhold, senior vice president of research and chief engineer for IBHS.

“For example, one of the most critical things for people living in an area impacted by a hurricane is to have an accurate estimate of the wind strength they experienced. If people latch on to the highest winds reported for a storm and think they actually experienced those winds, when they often have experienced lower winds, they might make poor decisions about evacuating in the future,” Reinhold said.

“The wind field maps produced by HWind following a hurricane will enable IBHS and others to provide accurate wind strength estimates to people affected by a particular storm,” he explained. “This is just one of the ways IBHS will utilize HWind’s objective hurricane wind data.”

Powell of HWind Scientific explained to Artemis why this collaboration is important to insurance, reinsurance and ILS or catastrophe bond players.

Powell began by explaining the importance of the IBHS research facilities; “IBHS’s research center operates a full-scale wind testing facility where they can subject an actual size home to hurricane winds. The facility allows them to test various building materials and standards of construction (according to vernacular styles or building codes that prevail in various coastal states). IBHS has also developed the “Fortified” standard for building disaster resistant homes. Their scientists and engineers are doing amazing things to help establish building practices to lower losses from natural disasters, not just hurricanes but wildfire, hail, rain penetration, and other modes of damage.”

And how the work relates to the re/insurance and risk transfer markets; “Just as Reinsurance and ILS companies can use real-time data and forecasts to estimate impacts and inform market decisions, during and immediately following a hurricane event IBHS will be able to use HWind’s real-time wind field analyses and footprints to determine which geographic areas they need to focus on to investigate damages. Their documentation studies will be able to associate the building damage with HWind’s time evolution of winds experienced at the site, as well as wind conditions from full-scale testing in the lab.”

“Ultimately the damage investigation can be tied into claim and loss data for an objective assessment of the entire wind-damage-claim-loss chain at specific locations, as well as the range of damage and loss over areas that receive similar wind conditions,” Powell continued.

Access to real-time wind field information could be invaluable to insurance and reinsurance companies looking to better understand the impacts of events. The data, on a historical basis, can also help to improve the view of risk and enable a better understanding of regional and local exposures to hurricanes and named storms.

For ILS and catastrophe bonds, as well as parametric insurance or reinsurance products, the data also has its applications.

Powell explained how putting this all together can help; “The result is a better understanding of the event impact and a resource for calibrating the scenario views of hurricane risk models used by companies in the Reinsurance and ILS markets. Associating claims and loss impacts with objective, scientifically credible, observation-based estimates of winds, establishes confidence in using wind footprints as parametric triggers in ILS products.”

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