College of Engineering

Civil Engineering Research

Dr. Jean-Paul Pinelli

Since joining Florida Tech in 1995, Dr. Pinelli has been involved in research related to the strength of anchors in high-strength concrete, the study of break-away connections of highway signs under the action of wind and traffic, tornado damage to low rise building, and the effect of wind on structures and emergency vehicles. He is also interested in multiple tuned mass dampers for passive control of seismic vibration, and in the utilization of magneto-rheological dampers for semi-active control of structures. His research has been funded by the State of Florida, FEMA, NSF, and the Florida Sea Grant Program. He currently leads the engineering team of the Florida Public Hurricane Prediction Model. The team has developed vulnerability models for single family homes, manufactured homes, and commercial residential buildings. It is also looking at the benefit and cost effectiveness of hurricane mitigation measures. Dr. Pinelli is also active in the development of wireless instrumentation for monitoring of the effect of hurricanes on structures. He is also the founder and director of the Wind and Hurricane Impact Laboratory - WHIRL.  Dr. Pinelli is also interested in the development of educational tools based on erector sets.

Current Projects

  • A Model to Evaluate the Benefit and Cost of Hurricane Mitigation Measures: Vulnerability Component. Funded by the Center of Excellence for Hurricane Damage Mitigation & Product Development at Florida International University.
  • Measurement & Characterization of Hurricane Wind Loads on Structures Using a Wireless Sensing Networking System. Funded by the National Science Foundation.

Past Project

  • Risk Versus Mitigation Measures: Quantifying Residential Vulnerability to Hurricane Winds and Evaluating the Cost Effectiveness of Retrofits Damage Mitigation. Funded by the Florida Sea Grant  Program.


Florida Public Hurricane Loss Model

The goal of the project is to develop and maintain a computer model to assess hurricane risk, and to project annual expected insured residential losses for specific sites, zip codes, counties and regions in Florida. These losses can be estimated for both individual property and for entire portfolios of residential properties. The Florida Public Hurricane Loss Model also projects insured losses for user defined scenarios and historical events.

The project is funded by the state of Florida through the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR)The model has meteorological, engineering, GIS, financial and actuarial components. It draws upon the expertise of a team of meteorologists, wind and structural engineers, statisticians, computer scientists, actuaries, and financial experts from the International Hurricane Research Center at FIU, and various universities in Florida, including Florida Tech, in accordance with the best available methodologies, techniques, theories and scientific principles. The model is developed without bias and is non-proprietary and transparent. It is subject to external review and it has been certified by the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology (FCHLPM). The model and its components are available to the insurance and reinsurance industry.

The model is used to (a) provide assistance to OIR and the insurance industry in the rate making process; (b) provide a state of the art non-proprietary wind field model for public use; (c) provide a check on the assumptions, analysis and results generated by the proprietary models; (d) help evaluate reinsurance risk for, e.g., the Florida CAT Fund; (e) assess the efficacy of disaster mitigation strategies.

The model consists of three major components: wind, vulnerability (damage), and insured loss. The vulnerability component models the relationship between damage to different classes of residential structures (and contents) and the maximum sustainable wind speed generated by the stochastic storms and wind fields. The impact of terrain roughness on this relationship is accounted for. Separate vulnerability functions for structure, content, and ALE were developed and validated by using insurance claims data and engineering data. Uncertainties are estimated and sensitivity analysis are performed.

The model is being expended to include commercial reisdential low-rise and mid to high-rise buildings.

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Hurricane Wind Gust Structures: Measurement, Characterization and Coastal Damage Mitigation


To measure and characterize ground-level hurricane wind fields, and to quantify and model the resultant wind force interaction with man-made coastal structures.

Objective Tasks

  • Develop and implement new instrumentation to:

    • Measure the spatial correlation of hurricane wind field gusts

    • Provide real-time remote access to hurricane wind data while it is being collected

  • Create analysis tool for the efficient processing and dissemination of collected hurricane wind data

  • Develop probability based models of:

    • The spatial gust structure of the local ground level wind field

    • The relationship between the local wind field gust structure and pressures over the building envelope


  • Develop and deploy new remote access wireless instrumentation to be installed on mobile wind towers and residential houses

  • Develop software capable of managing and analyzing the very large full-scale hurricane wind data sets

  • Employ data from new instrumentation to define the gust spatial structure and resultant correlated loads over the building envelope

  • Measure outcomes by direct comparison of new load models with current code provision and wind tunnel data



Given the rapidly increasing population in Florida¹s coastal areas, densely populated areas will continue to be impacted by hurricane winds. In addition to the immediate public safety and property loss issues, long-term economic and environmental recovery will also suffer without a concerted effort to prevent catastrophic damage to residential and commercial structures and the infrastructure. Affordable solutions to mitigate damage can only follow from an accurate quantification of the wind forces causing this destruction. Builders, coastal home and business owners, the insurance industry, and the state economy and ecosystem are the potential beneficiaries from this research.

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Wind Study of Emergency Vehicles

The report presents the results of a study to define the wind speed limits and conditions beyond which fire and rescue vehicles should not be operated during a hurricane. For that purpose, reduced scale models of a typical fire truck, ambulance, and sports utility vehicle (SUV) were tested in a wind tunnel. For the fire truck the wind tunnel tests are compared with full-scale measurements on a real truck and to computer simulations using the Fluent software. The report presents and compares the results of the different tests: experimental, field, and numerical. The resulting wind pressure distributions on the vehicles are used to obtain drag, lift, and side forces, in addition to overturning, yawing, and pitching moments. Based on the results of the tests and the analyses, safe wind speeds are found for the operation of these fire and rescue vehicles.

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Multiple Distributed Tuned Mass Dampers: An Exploratory Study

 The last decades have seen the development of important new technologies regarding the control of the response of structures to dynamic loading. These include passive control techniques, one of which is the tuned mass damper (TMD). It is a vibration absorber consisting of a mass, a spring, and a viscous damper. The motion of its mass activates the TMD when the natural frequency of the damper is tuned to be in or near resonance with the predominant frequency of the main structure. The effectiveness of the TMD's to mitigate wind-induced motions is well established. A series of studies have also shown that, when properly optimized, TMD's can also successfully control seismic vibrations. Recently, new schemes for the TMD have been proposed. In particular, it has been shown that multiple TMD's with their frequency range distributed around the fundamental modal frequency of a structure can be robust and efficient. However, there is still no agreement over whether multiple TMD's could successfully control several modes of a structure.

The research carried on at Florida Tech, and funded by the National Science Foundation, explored the feasibility of controlling various modes of a structure under seismic loading through the installation of various groups of tuned mass dampers with the frequency range of each group distributed around a different modal frequency. The proposed scheme is called multiple distributed tuned mass damper (MDTMD). A MDTMD could combine the robustness and efficiency already demonstrated for single mode distributed TMD's (in general referred to as multiple TMD, or MTMD), with the efficacy of highly damped and high mass devices proposed for some single TMD's. In addition, since in this type of installation the mass is distributed among several dampers, each individual device can be less bulky, and can require less displacement.

The parameters varied in the study, for a given structural model, were the type, properties, and number of devices to be installed. The sensitivity of the MDTMD's to different ground motions were investigated. Consequently, a computer and scaled laboratory structural models were subjected, with and without TMD's, to a series of dynamic loads through computer simulations and shake table tests. The shake table was built at Florida Tech.

This exploratory work advanced the understanding of an important passive control device, and indicated whether or not TMD's have the potential to be used for multi-modal control.

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