NIST grant funds wind research at Illinois

9/19/2019 12:44:42 PM

Above: NIST has awarded more than $6.6 million to study ways buildings can be made more resilient to hazards such as the 2011 Joplin tornado that destroyed this large store. Credit: NIST

CEE researchers at Illinois will develop sensors that measure pressure, wind and wind loading on structures during thunderstorms, tornadoes and other high-wind situations, thanks to a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). CEE assistant professor Franklin T. Lombardo will lead the research through his Wind Engineering Research Laboratory.

Tornadoes and thunderstorms cause significant impacts in the U.S., contributing $10 billion annually to the nation’s loss portfolio, Lombardo said. Yet because of the rarity of these events, they have not been adequately studied, their effects on structures is not well understood, and as a result effective building codes have not been developed.

Frank Lombardo
Frank Lombardo

“The barriers to our understanding of tornadoes and thunderstorms have left communities vulnerable, severely limiting the resilience of many communities in the United States,” Lombardo said.

To address this, Lombardo plans to undertake a comprehensive field experimentation program aimed at developing, validating and producing low-cost sensors to measure wind speed, wind loading and barometric pressure. Through rapid deployment of these sensors, the team hopes to generate unprecedented datasets to inform better building codes.

The award is one of 12 grants totaling more than $6.6 million awarded by NIST to fund research into improving disaster resilience. The teams will conduct research into how earthquakes, wind and fire affect the built environment to inform building designs, codes and standards to help those structures better withstand such hazards.

“Natural hazards represent a significant threat to the well-being of our communities,” said Howard Harary, director of NIST’s Engineering Laboratory, which manages the Disaster Resilience Grant Research Program. “In 2018 alone, the U.S. experienced 14 separate billion-dollar events, with total losses exceeding $91 billion. And the monetary figure does not reflect the many lives lost and countless lives disrupted. Each of these grants represents research that is a substantial step toward creating a more disaster resilient nation.”

Lombardo joined the faculty in 2015. His research is focused on understanding transient wind events, for example tornadoes and thunderstorms, and their impacts to the built environment through hazard, load and vulnerability characterization.

More information on the awards and other recipients can be found here: