What the Hail? IBHS Stages Indoor Storm

A research initiative to develop better building standards and reduced property insurance losses.

Mix one part tap water with one part seltzer water. Freeze until solid. A new way to chill a glass for a frosty taste sensation? No! The cocktail was created by scientists, not bartenders.

A team from the Insurance Institute for Business Home and Safety (IBHS) crafted the icy recipe to replicate 9,200 hailstones to shoot at a home and car. It was all part of the Institute’s latest effort to imitate Mother Nature in a laboratory setting. Past IBHS tests mimicked the damage potential of tornado- and hurricane-force winds and flying embers associated with wildfires—each conducted at the Institute’s controlled indoor South Carolina-based facility.

Similar to the other tests, this hail experiment was aimed at determining how well the various types—and ages—of roofing materials, siding and other construction materials would withstand the damaging effects of a natural disaster. The test marked the beginning of a multi-year hail research initiative that IBHS hopes will lead to better building standards and reduced property insurance losses.

The Nationwide/IBHS Partnership
“Protecting small businesses and homes is what we do, and providing solutions to help home and business owners avoid, or minimize, property damage is why Nationwide invests in IBHS research,” says Mark Pizzi, President and COO of Nationwide Insurance. Pizzi, who sits on the IBHS board of directors, was among the visitors and media who witnessed the indoor hailstorm demonstration. Pizzi said he was most impressed with the science behind the experiment.

Staging an Indoor Hailstorm
Not only were scientists challenged by creating thousands of lab-created hailstones, but they needed a hail delivery system to stage the experiment. Researchers met the challenge by customizing a series of multi-barreled cannons mounted 60 feet above the house, car and patio furniture that served as the “crash test dummies” inside the Institute’s test site. The cannons shot the 9,200 hailstones into the structure, as the items rotated on a large turntable below, allowing the pelting stones to strike the property at various angles.

After the test, Pizzi and the other guests joined IBHS President and CEO Julie Rochman in assessing the damage. The test roof was a mosaic mix of materials, with sections aged to varying levels. Not surprisingly, the sections constructed with fortified shingles fared better than those with traditional asphalt shingles.

“Currently, few impact-resistance standards exist for building materials when it comes to hail,” says Pizzi. “We hope the data collected by the IBHS through this experiment lends to the development and use of more fortified roofing and other materials, as well as a better understanding of the relationship between hail damage and the age of a roof.”

Insurance companies are the number one consumer of roofs and roofing products in the U.S. Hail damage is one of the primary reasons why home and business owners repair or replace roofs. To learn more, visit the IBHS website.