Pressure distribution on the roof of a model low-rise building tested in a boundary layer wind tunnel

Goliber, Matthew
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With three of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States along the Gulf coast (Houston, Tampa, and New Orleans), residential populations ever increasing due to the subtropical climate, and insured land value along the coast from Texas to the Florida panhandle greater than $500 billion, hurricane related knowledge is as important now as ever before. This thesis focuses on model low-rise building wind tunnel tests done in connection with full-scale low-rise building tests. Mainly, pressure data collection equipment and methods used in the wind tunnel are compared to pressure data collection equipment and methods used in the field.

Although the focus of this report is on the testing of models in the wind tunnel, the low-rise building in the field is located in Pensacola, Florida. It has a wall length of 48 feet, a width of 32 feet, a height of 10 feet, and a gable roof with a pitch of 1:3 and 68 pressure ports strategically placed on the surface of the roof. Built by Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) in 2002, the importance of the test structure has been realized as it has been subjected to numerous hurricanes. In fact, the validity of the field data is so important that the following thesis was necessary.

The first model tested in the Bill James Wind Tunnel for this research was a rectangular box. It was through the testing of this box that much of the basic wind tunnel and pressure data collection knowledge was gathered. Knowledge gained from Model 1 tests was as basic as how to: mount pressure tubes on a model, use a pressure transducer, operate the wind tunnel, utilize the pitot tube and reference pressure, and measure wind velocity. Model 1 tests also showed the importance of precise construction to produce precise pressure coefficients.

Model 2 was tested in the AABL Wind Tunnel at Iowa State University. This second model was a 22 inch cube which contained a total of 11 rows of pressure ports on its front and top faces. The purpose of Model 2 was to validate the tube length, tube diameter, port diameter, and pressure transducer used in the field. Also, Model 2 was used to study the effects of surface roughness on pressure readings.

A partial roof and wall of the low-rise building in the field was used as the third model. Similar to the second model, Model 3 was tested in the AABL Wind Tunnel. Initially, the objectives of the third model were to validate the pressure port protection device (PPPD) being used in the field and test the possibility of interpolating between pressure ports. But in the end, Model 3 was best used to validate the inconsistencies of the full-scale PPPD, validate the transducers used in the field, and prove the importance of scaling either all or none of the model.

Fourthly, Model 4 was a 1:16 model of the low-rise building itself. Based on the three previous model tests, Model 4 was instrumented with 202 pressure transducers to better understand: 1) the pressure distribution on the roof of the structure, 2) the affects of the fundamental test variables such as tube length, tube diameter, port diameter, transducer type, and surface roughness, 3) the affects of a scaled PPPD, 4) the importance of wind angle of attack, and 5) the possibility of measuring pressure data and load data simultaneously.

In the end, the combination of all four model tests proved to be helpful in understanding the pressure data gathered on the roof of the low-rise building in the field. The two main recommendations for the field structure are for reevaluation of the PPPD design and slight redistribution of the pressure ports. The wind tunnel model tests show a need for these two modifications in order to gather more accurate field pressure data. Other than these two adjustments, the model tests show that the remaining data gathering system is currently accurate.

Boundary Layer, Hurricane, Low Rise Building, Wind Pressure, Wind Tunnel