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Researchers Concerned Over Wacky Roofs in Windy Conditions

Not all homes are as eccentric and innovative in design at the Marqués de Riscal Hotel in Spain, but the latest influx of building designs appear to have certain vulnerabilities when wind-tunnel tests are performed on them.

Researchers called for the tests to be run because roof designs and dimensions have become more intricate in Australia over the past three decades. The wind tunnel tests for the current standard for roofs were conducted in the 1990s.

James Cook University researcher Korah Parackal, PhD, pointed out that homes used to be square with standard-shaped roofs. The new custom shapes appearing today compel different wind force reactions, so it was decided to determine if the wind loading standards were still valid.

The team constructed models of houses, all of them built to a scale of 1/50 and designed with new roof shapes. After fitting the models with pressure sensors, they tested them in the wind tunnel at the university Cyclone Testing Station.

Dr Packaral said that the building standards currently being used could underestimate the suction pressures on the roof edges of properties with intricate roof shapes, especially those with two or more storeys.

He warned that some homes could potentially lose cladding from the roof and be exposed to wind and water damage if minor construction defects are present and the homes themselves are poorly maintained.

Specialists in Construction Insurance

For both types of properties, the researchers concluded that the different wind directions exerted high force on the components that secure the roof to the frame of the house.

Dr Parackal explained that when these forces are considered by designers, it is typically a case of only one worse-case wind direction being taken into account. Research suggests that a complex roof in high winds can be subjected to other, equally hazardous scenarios.

He said that while the present design standards are not deficient enough to be dangerous, but the margins for error are not as wide as people appear to think. In his opinion, this emphasised the need for builders and apprentices to understand that the smallest construction defects can create a lot of problems.

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