Western U Research Working To Make Tornado-Resistant Communities

According to Western University Civil Engineering Professor Greg Kopp, improved engineering and better roofing supplies for roofing in Calgary and across the country, could make sure that up to 95% of Canadian homes can handle category EF-2 tornadoes.

Kopp is a Winnipeg native who’s been at Western since 1997, studying the effects of high winds on buildings through programs like the Three Little Pigs Research Project. He was recently awarded funding to study tornadoes in remote Canadian locations. From that research, his team will identify methods of improving the resilience of homes and communities that are in locations that are likely to be hit by high-wind events.

Kopp, who is also an associate dean at the Ontario school’s Faculty of Engineering, is anticipating recommendations to emerge from its Northern Tornadoes Project, which he hopes will lead to a systematic standard for construction, and roofing in Calgary and across the country that considers wind loads.

He says that, from an engineering point of view, the hope is to be able to predict the risks and mitigate them for tornadoes, and that, if they’re missing a lot of tornadoes in unpopulated areas, they’re not getting a good feel for the level of risk that these events bring. He says that a lot of big tornadoes in Canada often occur in outbreaks, more than just one tornado. So identifying those and determining accurate rates becomes a key parameter in order to understand and determine risk.

The research will be building up on previous findings that have led Kopp to advocate for such measures in order to strengthen building durability as increased use of hurricane straps, better nailing patterns on roofs, as well as improved nail quality through longer nails and nails with more friction. Kopp adds that these results in cascading damage patterns.

Kopp says that the most vulnerable part of a house during a tornado is the roof, noting that a lot of damage that occurs during such events is caused by debris from one home hits another. He says that, if they’re going to recommend new techniques to builders in tornado-prone areas, they need evidence to back it up.

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