OSU researcher studies ways to build tornado-resistant homes

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Researchers at Oregon State University are working to build homes that can hold up better in tornadoes like the ones in Oklahoma.

Arijit Sinha is an associate professor in the Department of Wood Science and Engineering at Oregon State. He studies buildings and structures after natural disasters like the tornado in Joplin, Missouri, in 2011.

He says there's not much that can be done if your home is in the eye of the tornado during an E5 tornado, like the one that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma. "There's nothing you can do for 200 miles per hour."

However, as you move from the eye of the tornado, lives and homes can be saved. "As you deviate from the center line, and it goes towards the edge of the belt, the wind speeds are 130, 120 miles per hour, and you can design for that wind speed," he said.

For example in Oregon, he says homes in Newport are designed to withstand these types of wind speeds. Singha says the most important part of the home is the connection - how the walls are connected to the foundation of the home. "One thing we learned from Joplin, one thing that stood out was connection issues. There was hardly any connection between foundation and the superstructure, the structure above," said Sinha.

"You can reduce the collateral damages as you deviate along the center line, and you can reduce economic damages," he said.

Sinha says his research focuses on how to create better designs, connections, and resistance to high speed wind. He and his colleagues are looking at how to create better foundations - making it safer for everyone.