Forest Products Laboratory engineers in Madison, Wisconsin, develop affordable tornado shelters using low-grade board, plywood; aim to provide safe rooms in kit-form for under US$4,000 compared to current cost of up to US$15,000

LOS ANGELES , May 26, 2014 () – Research engineers at the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, are testing the tornado resiliency of tornado shelters constructed from low-grade wood, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

The team led by Bob Falk is testing the shelters by using an air cannon to fire Southern pine 2x4s into the walls at 100 mph. The cannon is designed to mimic the force of an F5 tornado with winds of 250 mph. Falk said the shelter was designed to resist tornadoes by absorbing the energy.

The purpose of the research is to develop an affordable wood-based shelter that could be supplied in kit form for construction in a basement or garage, creating a tornado-safe room.

Currently, the cost of a safe room is between $6,000 and $15,000, compared to the cost of the Forest Products Laboratory design, which costs of between $3,000 and $4,000.

The shelter, which can be bolted to the concrete floor of a basement or garage, consists of interlocking layers of low-grade board that are covered on the interior and exterior with plywood. The shelter also features a steel door, which contributes about $1,500 to the cost, but Falk hopes to reduce that cost by designing a wood door.

Last year, tornadoes in Oklahoma killed more than 30 people, while more than 35 people have died in this year's tornadoes, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Wisconsin suffered 16 tornadoes in 2013, and has a 30-year norm of 23 tornadoes per year.

Testing of the shelters is expected to continue into 2015.

The primary source of this article is the Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, Wisconsin, on May 11, 2014. The original article can be viewed here.

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