Plans to protect Port-au-Prince begin at Ketter Hall

University at Buffalo Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering undergraduate student presents at LSAMP poster symposium

Paolo Bourdeau explains wind engineering research during the LSAMP research internship poster presentation

By Peter Murphy

Published August 27, 2018

Paolo Bourdeau, a junior in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering at UB plans to use the research he developed during the 10-week Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Research Internship program, to make his home country Haiti more resilient to hurricanes.

Wind engineering research: Surface roughness, wind speed and protecting communities

“My end goal is to go back to Haiti and improve the civil infrastructure, but my big dream is to improve the building codes for all developing countries.”
Paolo Bourdeau, Civil Engineering student
Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering

Bourdeau worked with UB assistant professor Teng Wu, who specializes in wind and structural engineering. Bourdeau first became interested in working with Wu after he discovered some of Wu’s research estimating the damage on residential homes by hurricane models. “I was really interested in that,” he says. “Being from Haiti, I was sensitive to the fact that hurricanes strike not only the Caribbean, but the east coast of the United States. I was drawn to Dr. Wu’s research interests but I wasn’t able to work with him during the semester. Thanks to the LSAMP program, I was able to.”

Wu, Bourdeau and Wu’s PhD student Reda Snaiki worked together to more accurately determine wind speed during hurricanes, tropical cyclones or nor’easters and winter storms. Combining the wind speed and an estimation of surface roughness can help assess the damage these different phenomena have on homes, buildings and infrastructure. “I improved wind field calculations by estimating surface roughness along the east coast of the US.” Bourdeau says. “I used surface roughness classification schemes from previous researchers and students to develop a map of the east coast that shows the average surface roughness within a 0.5 by 0.5-degree resolution.”

“In this type of experiment, roughness is equivalent to height,” says Wu, “we are trying to determine the wind speed during these events. Once we have wind speed, we can try to determine damage.”

Bourdeau, who was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, plans to take these calculations, and use them to make advances in the way the country currently protects its civil infrastructure, and review damage assessments and risk analysis when he visits Haiti later this year. “My plan is to apply what I’ve done for these 10 weeks and see how I can advance on that. I plan to go to Haiti and speak with officials and engineers there to see what they are actually doing to protect themselves against this natural phenomenon. If I bring back that info, I can add to the research that UB has to offer.”

The LSAMP program seeks to diversify the STEM workforce by significantly increasing the numbers of students successfully completing high quality degree programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Bourdeau participated in the summer internship program, and says he had a “great experience” during these 10 weeks.

“We were working on surface roughness, and the PhD student I worked with, and Reda (Snaiki), really showed me how important it actually is. It is important for damage assessment, but it is important for other disciplines like evapotranspiration, geological applications and wind farms. It’s very interdisciplinary.”

Bourdeau will visit Haiti and meet with officials to examine the country’s resiliency to these high-wind events, and he has plans to expand.

“My end goal is to go back to Haiti and improve the civil infrastructure,” Bourdeau says, “but my big dream is to improve the building codes for all developing countries.”