Faculty of EngineeringThe University of Western Ontario

The Three Little Pigs Research Project at
The Insurance Research Lab for Better Homes





The Insurance Research Lab for Better Homes will permit, for the first time anywhere, the application of realistically simulated time and spatially varying wind loads to full-scale houses and light-frame structures including sheet steel buildings, in a controlled manner, up to failure. This will permit an assessment of the integrity of the overall structure of the building, the pathways by which the load is transmitted through the structure to the ground and the performance of individual building components as part of the whole construction. Simulated snow loading will also be investigated. In addition, the facility will be used to assess the factors influencing the ingress of moisture due to wind-driven rain and the development of harmful mould growth under realistic environmental conditions. Further, information on human error during the construction process will be collected and its impact on the potential damage and failure will be analyzed. These will all be breakthrough developments to the current state-of-the-art. In fact, much of the necessary instrumentation and equipment will be developed as part of the project, since it does not yet exist.

Houses and light-frame buildings are complex structures because of their highly redundant and vaguely defined structural systems. For example, resistance to lateral movement is largely derived from the drywall nailed to both load-bearing and non load-bearing walls inside the structure. The infrastructure will generate necessary data to validate the next generation of computational analyses of houses and light frame buildings that will accurately predict behaviour up to failure. Full-scale component tests and even the static loading of complete structures do not adequately predict true behaviour under transient peak wind loads that fluctuate dramatically over the surface of the building. Thus, the precise response mechanisms up to failure are not yet known.

Structural loading is not the only loading that is poorly understood; rain penetration is another (as evidenced by the "Leaky condo crisis" in Vancouver). The mechanisms of moisture infiltration and mould growth and their movement within a house can best be assessed through full-scale testing, as allowed by the proposed facility.