17:00 PM

American Family is raising the roofs on a new farm in Madison

Mini roofing farm

MADISON, Wis. - There’s a new farm that’s sprouted up outside American Family Insurance’s National Headquarters (NHQ) in Madison, Wisconsin. But it’s not growing food, its collecting data.

The farm is a partnership between American Family and the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), and will help determine how weather in the Midwest impacts a variety of roofing materials. Our farm is part of a bigger study on why some materials hold up better than others in various climates.

The structures are small versions of residential roofs. Each structure measures 15-feet square and has a pitch (or angle) similar to the roof on a typical home. The difference from one roof to another on this farm is the roofing materials.

Studying the roofline

As roofing materials age, they become much more vulnerable to damage from wind, hail, snow, ice dams and leaks. The majority of property losses and claims paid by the insurance industry are related to roofs. So the more our industry knows about which materials function best, the better.

American Family took the lead as the first insurance company to partner with IBHS and commit to this study.

“We know that roofing is impacted by aging, but there has never been a research project that has studied the long-term effects of aging on roof performance,” said Dr. Ian Giammanco, IBHS lead research meteorologist. “Many roofing products are known to degrade over time depending on the local environment. Controlled aging of roofs in various climates along with systematically testing wind and impact resistance at five-year intervals will provide us with the data needed to improve vulnerability assessments.

“American Family has been a terrific partner to IBHS on a number of projects, and we are very grateful that this company has again shown its leadership by being the first IBHS member to install a roof aging farm,” Giammanco said.

The study will be conducted during a 25-year period, and roof farms like ours will be located in various geographic climates.

“Our farm represents the upper Midwest,” says Bill Eberle, product research senior specialist with American Family. “The IBHS Research Center, which is located in South Carolina, has an existing roof farm that represents the climate in southeastern states.”

Other IBHS member companies like us will construct farms in the future to represent the climates in the Southwest, Northeast and Northwest.

Harvesting the data

Weather data is collected using a small solar-powered weather station on the farm site. Sensors are installed on each roof to monitor relative humidity and the temperature of the various roofing layers. These measurements, combined with the weather conditions at each site, will help scientists fully understand all the dynamics involved with roof aging.

In addition to monitoring climate data, scientists will remove, or harvest, panels from each roof structure every five years and test the shingles for wind uplift and impact resistance in their South Carolina lab. Understanding the effect aging has on roofing materials will lead to the development of more resilient roofing materials.

This ground-breaking way to study aging roofs demonstrates a long-term commitment to our customers and dedication to our partnership with IBHS.

“It’s a study we’re proud to take the lead on,” says Bill. “We’ll learn which materials are best to use in various climates and can better advise our customers.”

Amfam team builds from the ground up

Our roof farm is located on the grounds of NHQ in Madison. A fairly level location requiring only minor site work was selected once American Family received approvals from zoning and other land authorities.

“We’ve built 12 structures with three different roofing systems on our farm,” says Josh Peterson, construction project consultant with American Family. “We were able to avoid the cost of extending power service to the site by using a solar panel to power the equipment that collects and communicates the weather data to IBHS.”

Based in Madison, Wis., American Family Insurance offers auto insurance, homeowners insurance, life insurance, health insurance, business and farm/ranch insurance in 19 states. American Family insurance is the nation’s third-largest mutual property/casualty insurance company and ranks 373rd on the Fortune 500 list. Web: www.amfam.com; Facebook: www.facebook.com/amfam; Twitter: www.twitter.com/amfam; Google+: plus.google.com/+amfam/; YouTube: www.youtube.com/amfam.

About IBHS

IBHS is an independent, nonprofit, scientific research and communications organization supported by the property insurance industry. The organization works to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other risks on residential and commercial property by conducting building science research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparedness practices. For more information, visit www.DisasterSafety.org.

News media contact:
Sandra Spann
Media Relations
American Family Insurance
(608) 242-4100, ext. 32881
Twitter: @AmFamNews