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Engineers Testing Building Panels Resistance to Strong Winds

June 18, 2007

Civil engineering researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington have received an additional $151,000 grant to test and evaluate the ability of lightweight ductile concrete panels to resist hurricane-force loads. This is a continuation of a $150,000 project begun last year.

Associate Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering Ali Abolmaali is the principal investigator of the project. Co-investigators on the project are Drs. John Matthys, Guillermo Ramirez and Nur Yazdani. With the help of graduate students earlier this year, they constructed a 12’ by 12’ building using Hanson Pipe and Precast’s “AeroDwell” panels. The panels are reinforced with glass fiber and steel, but weigh about 40 percent less than a normal precast concrete panel – 90 pounds per cubic foot vs. 150 pounds per cubic foot.

Using large bladders filled with compressed air, Dr. Abolmaali and his students tested the building’s ability to withstand pressures equal to those created by a 500 mile-per-hour wind, greatly exceeding those of a hurricane or tornado. The ductile panels, which yield slightly to pressure without cracking, were tested to their breaking points.

These full-scale tests were complemented by finite element modeling and computer simulations. Additional testing will be conducted to optimize the panels’ performance during harsh weather conditions. These will involve changes in the materials used to form the panels and proportional mixtures of concrete and reinforcing materials.

Hanson’s “AeroDwell” panels are currently being produced in its plants in Grand Prairie and New Orleans and are used in the reconstruction of some structures in New Orleans. For additional information on the project, contact Dr. Ali Abolmaali at abolmaali@uta.edu.

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