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Driving Rain Data for Canadian Building Design

John F Straube and C.J. Schumacher


University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ont., Canada
ABSTRACT
This paper presents a methodology for calculating driving rain loads as a function of climate and building geometry. The wind speed
and direction data from CWEC weather files are used in combination with rainfall normals to predict the annual driving rain for
sixteen directions in twenty-two major Canadian cities. This data is plotted and tabulated. Modification factors are presented to
convert these raw driving rain data to actual driving rain loads on vertical building surfaces.

INTRODUCTION
Moisture is the most common cause of building enclosure performance problems. In Canada, air leakage
condensation, one of the major sources of wetting, has received a great deal of attention in the past. However,
the amount of water deposited on the above-grade building enclosure by driving rain is generally larger than
any other source, including condensation, in almost all cases. In the past, rain control usually meant preventing
rain from penetrating to the interior of the building or wetting interior finishes. Today, more rain penetration
problems are due to rain absorption into materials, staining, and penetration into wall cavities where mould, rot,
and corrosion can be sustained.
Canadian research has improved our understanding of rain penetration, and a common set of control strategies
have been developed for practice [CMHC 2000, Straube & Burnett 1999] Despite the importance of driving
rain to building performance, there is still a lack of quantitative data of the magnitude, duration, and frequency
of rain deposition on buildings.
Driving rain, both in the free wind and deposition on a test house, have been measured for several years at the
Building Engineering Group's (BEG) full-scale natural exposure and test facility, the Beghut. Measurements
have also recently been undertaken on other buildings in the field. The predictive capacity developed from
these field measurements is presently being applied to a range of Canadian climates with funding from the
CMHC ERP grant program and NSERC.

CALCULATING DRIVING RAIN


Driving rain is defined as the quantity of rain that passes through a vertical plane in the atmosphere. The
amount of driving rain in unobstructed wind flow can be calculated with reasonable accuracy. Raindrops fall to
the ground at their terminal velocity and are blown sideways at the speed of the wind (Figure 1). The speed at
which raindrops fall is a function of the size of the drop. Essentially, as the drop size increases the rain drop
terminal speed increases at a decreasing rate. The wind carries the drops along horizontally due to drag. The
combination of gravity and wind forces determines the trajectory of the drop, and simple geometry can then be
used to assess the amount of rain passing through a vertical plane. Complicating this assessment is the fact that
there is a range of raindrop sizes in any rainstorm. Research by various meteorologists can be used to correlate
the distribution of drop sizes in a rainstorm with the intensity of the rainfall.
Based on a similar analysis, Lacy [1965] proposed a simple equation relating wind speed and rainfall intensity to
driving rain :
rv = 0.208 · V· rh (1)
where, rv is the rate of rain passing through a vertical plane (l/m2/h),
V is the average wind velocity (m/s), and
rh is the average rainfall rate on a horizontal plane such as the ground (mm/m2/h).
This equation was based on a mix of field measurements and calculations. Subsequent theoretical work and a
considerable amount of field measurement has allowed us to extend and generalize Equation 1 to
rv = DRF · V(h) · rh (2)
where V(h) is the wind speed at the height of interest (m/s),

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The proportionality constant in Equation (2), is the ratio of rain on a vertical plane (driving rain) to rain on a
horizontal plane (falling rain) and has been defined [Straube & Burnett 1997] as the driving rain factor (DRF).
Field studies at the University of Waterloo [Straube & Burnett 1997], in Germany [Kuenzel 1994] and
computer models [Choi 1994] have found that the value for the DRF ranges between 0.20 to 0.25 for average
conditions. This is the reason that the simple Lacy equation was so successful. However, DRF does vary
considerably for different rainfall intensities and rain storm types. For example, it can range from more than
0.5 for drizzle to as little as 0.15 for intense cloudbursts.

FIGURE 1: DRIVING RAIN


Comparisons of field measurements with theoretical analysis [Straube 1998] has shown that the value for the
Driving Rain Factor (DRF=1/Vt) can be calculated quite precisely from rainfall and wind speed data using:
Vt(Ø) = -.166033 + 4.91844•Ø - .888016•Ø2 + .054888•Ø3 ≤ 9.20 (3)
where Vt(Ø) is the raindrop terminal velocity (in m/s) for a raindrop diameter (mm) Ø

The following relation has been found to represent the distribution of raindrop sizes as a function of rainfall
intensity:
2.245
F(Ø) = 1- exp{- ( 1.30· Ør 0.232 ) } (4)
h
where F(Ø) is used to calculate the median drop diameter from the rainfall intensity at every
hourly interval.
The experimental work references has shown that the quantity of driving rain in an unobstructed wind flow can
be calculated with an accuracy of better than 10% using Equations 2 through 4 [Straube 1998].
The cosine of the angle between the plane of interest and the direction of the wind can be used do account for
wind direction on a plane oriented in a specific direction.
Finally, wind speed can be converted to stagnation pressure (assuming a temperature of 15 C) using
Pstag = 0.6 V2 (5)
Previous Driving Rain Data Formats
To assess the influence of climate on driving rain exposure, designers have in the past resorted to Boyd's
driving rain map of Canada [Boyd 1963] or Grimm’s map of the United Stated [Grimm 1982]. These maps plot
the annual Driving Rain Index (DRI). The DRI is the product of the annual average wind speed and total
annual rainfall, that is:
rv = V· rh (6)
where V and rh are annual averages.

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Although useful as broad and relative climate measures, the DRI does not represent the actual quantity of rain
deposition. However, as can be seen by comparison with Equation 2, the DRI could be converted to an actual
quantity by use of the proper DRF based on hourly values.
For lack of better information, these DRI plots assume that both the wind speed during rain and wind
direction during rain are the same as those during average conditions. While measurements have shown that
the distribution of wind speed during rain is almost the same as (typically 10 to 20% higher) that during all
hours the wind direction during rainfall is often quite different (factors of 2 to 5) than during non-rainy hours
[Surrey et al 1995]. Both of these conclusions are climate dependent.
A further limitation of the application of DRI plots to building design is that they do not reflect the impact of
orientation and exposure. It is clear to practitioners that different localities have different building faces with
significantly higher rain deposition and that a bungalow is exposed differently than a high rise building on a
hilltop.
Hence, there is a need for more accurate plots of driving rain that reflect the different climates of Canada,
account for the actual distribution of wind speed and rain fall intensity, and account for wind direction during
rain.

DRIVING RAIN DATA


We have begun a project to develop new more useful and more accurate driving rain maps and data for Canada.
Using Equations 2 to 4, hourly weather data of wind speed and rainfall rate can be processed and driving rain
data generated. To be useful to designers, wind direction should be taken into account and this is easily done if
hourly average wind speed during rain is available.
There are several choices of weather data. Hourly data containing the three required elements are available for
at least 20 years at many different locations throughout Canada. Canadian Weather files for Energy
Calculation(CWEC) data files are also widely available and represent a typical year on the basis of temperature
and solar radiation. We have chosen to use CWEC files for our initial driving analysis to simplify the problems
of choosing an average rain year. We plan to also generate data using multi-year weather files for a number of
locations.
One of the challenges of using CWEC files is that they do not provide direct quantities of falling rain intensity.
Instead, the files include categories of rainfall type and intensity, located in column 76 of the .CW2 files. These
categories represent a range of rainfall quantity. However, summing the average of each range over a year does
not necessarily result in the correct total rainfall for a site based on climate normals. Hence, we have applied
weightings to each category as shown in Table 1 and normalized the results using the 30 year normal monthly
rainfall quantities published by Environment Canada.

TABLE 1: RAIN CATEGORIES FROM CWEC FILES

CWEC Data Flag (CWEC Rain Category) Rainfall Rate Weights

0 (None) 0
1 (Light Rain), 4 (Light Rain Showers), 7 (Light Freezing Rain) 2
2 (Moderate Rain), 5 (Moderate Rain Showers), 8 (Moderate Freezing Rain) 4
3 (Heavy Rain), 6 (Heavy Rain Showers) 8

The rainfall intensity for each hour calculated in this manner was then used to calculate the median drop
diameter (using Equation 4), the terminal velocity of the median droplet (Equation 3) and the amount of
driving rain (Equation 2). All values are based on open terrain near airports and a height of 10 m above grade.
The total annual driving rain, for each of 16 directions was calculated for 22 Canadian cities. Using Equations
2 through 4, the rain on a plane facing one of these 16 directions (cosine corrected for directions within +/- 90
degrees of the plane of interest) is plotted for 6 cities in Figure 2 through Figure 4. Hence, a DRF for each
hour was calculated using Equation 3 depending on the intensity of rainfall (Equation 4).
Table 2 summarizes the rainfall (rain on a horizontal plane), the total driving rain (generated by summing each
of the 16 directions without cosine correction), the average driving rain, and the quantity of driving rain on the

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worst orientation. The summary statistics of total driving rain and the peak driving rain direction and quantity,
have also been plotted on a map of Canada in Figure 5.

Vancouver, BC - Driving Rain 90° Incident, mm/yr Edmonton, AB - Driving Rain 90° Incident, mm/yr
N N
800 800
NNW NNE NNW NNE

NW 600 NE NW 600 NE

400 400
WNW ENE WNW ENE

200 200

W 0 E W 0 E

WSW ESE WSW ESE

SW SE SW SE

SSW SSE SSW SSE

S S

FIGURE 2: VANCOUVER & EDMONTON DRIVING RAIN PLOTS

Toronto, ON - Driving Rain 90° Incident, mm/yr Montreal, QC - Driving Rain 90° Incident, mm/yr
N N
800 800
NNW NNE NNW NNE

NW 600 NE 600
NW NE

400 400
WNW ENE WNW ENE

200 200

W 0 E W 0 E

WSW ESE WSW ESE

SW SE SW SE

SSW SSE SSW SSE

S S

FIGURE 3: TORONTO & MONTREAL DRIVING RAIN PLOTS

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Halifax, NS - Driving Rain 90° Incident, mm/yr St. John's, NF - Driving Rain 90° Incident, mm/yr
N N
800 800
NNW NNE NNW NNE

600 NW 600 NE
NW NE

400 400
WNW ENE WNW ENE

200 200

W 0 E W 0 E

WSW ESE WSW ESE

SW SE SW SE

SSW SSE SSW SSE

S S

FIGURE 4: HALIFAX & ST. JOHN’S DRIVING RAIN PLOTS

TABLE 2: ANNUAL DRIVING RAIN DATA DERIVED FROM CWEC FILES

Horiz. Driving Rain (kg/m²) Avg Windspeed (m/s)


Orient’n
City / Province Rainfall During
Total Max Avg for Max All Hours
(kg/m²) Rain
Calgary AB 321 340 174 87 NW 4.4 5.9
Edmonton AB 366 428 264 118 NW 3.6 5.3
Prince George BC 419 302 200 94 SSW 2.4 3.2
Vancouver BC 1155 1084 764 337 E 3.3 4.4
Victoria BC 842 712 433 220 SSE 3 3.9
Churchill MB 264 369 161 101 ENE 5.9 6.8
Winnipeg MB 416 417 188 126 ESE 4.8 5.4
Fredericton NB 886 729 325 223 SSW 3.6 4
Saint John NB 1148 1593 786 479 SE 5.1 6.9
St. John's NF 1191 1913 1245 590 SSW 6.7 7.6
Halifax NS 1239 1283 656 384 SE 4.2 5.3
Sydney NS 1213 1893 1196 587 SSE 6 7.7
Yellowknife NT 165 201 93 58 ENE 4.3 5.3
North Bay ON 775 671 340 207 SSW 3.7 4.4
Ottawa ON 732 655 253 197 E 4.1 4.6
Toronto ON 685 646 308 194 ESE 4.2 4.8
Charlottetown PE 880 1044 487 318 SSE 5 6.2
Montreal QC 760 664 290 200 SSW 3.8 4.5
Quebec QC 924 765 438 240 ENE 3.8 4.4
Regina SK 304 400 137 113 ENE 5.6 6.5
Saskatoon SK 265 298 119 86 ESE 4.7 5.4
Whitehorse YT 163 99 53 29 SSE 3.3 3

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FIGURE 5: ANNUAL DRIVING RAIN STATISTICS FOR CANADA (CWEC DATA FILES)
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Although the result of analysis of CWEC files, not real weather data, these plots already show some important
information. St. John’s, Halifax and Vancouver are, not surprisingly, the two large cities with the most driving
rain. The total driving rain in Halifax is higher than Vancouver (1283 versus 1084 mm per year). The peak
driving rain direction is of more importance for most building designers since it imposes the highest load.
Driving rain from the worst direction is higher in Vancouver than Halifax (764 versus 656). The driving rain in
other major population centers, such as Toronto and Edmonton are much less, and quite different than either
of Vancouver or Halifax. The driving rain on the worst orientation in St John’s, Newfoundland and Sydney
Nova Scotia are much higher, at around 1200 kg/m2/yr than either Vancouver or Halifax. It can also be seen
from the figure that orientation has a very significant effect: the ratio of the amount of rain on the worst
direction is between 5 and 10 times that on the most exposed direction.
Coincidence of wind speed and rainfall
The importance of wind speed to the intensity of driving-rain deposition has already been noted. High wind
speeds also may generate high stagnation pressures that can drive rain into the cracks and openings of some
types of enclosures. Small flaws in face-sealed claddings for example, will leak significantly more when exposed
to pressure differences [Lacasse et al 2003]. Brickwork does not leak significantly more under pressures of 50
Pa than 0 Pa [Straube and Burnett 2000]. In most cases the increase in air pressure with wind speed is
unimportant relative to the size of the increase in rain deposition with wind speed [Lacasse et al 2003]. Hence,
although practitioners often observe an increase in rain-penetration control problems in high exposure
conditions the evidence suggests that these problems are usually due not to an increase in air pressure
difference but to an increase in rain deposition.
Table 2 summarizes the wind speed during all hours and the wind speed during rainfall. It is clear that the
average wind speed is often slightly higher during rain, generally by about 10 to 20%. Most locations in North
America have similar average wind speeds (i.e., 3 to 5 m/s at 10 m above grade), but it is clear that a location
such as St John’s Newfoundland will have much higher imposed wind pressure during rain (V= 7.6 m/s, Pstag =
35 Pa) than Prince George (V = 3.2 m/s, Pstag = 6 Pa).
Figure 6 plots the results of a more detailed study of 25 years (1965-1990) of hourly wind and rain data for
Seattle-Tacoma Airport, Washington. It can be seen that wind speed is slightly higher during rainfall (4.65
m/s), but the wind speed is, on average, relatively low (an average of 3.9 m/s). The plots shows that the hourly
average stagnation pressures acting on a wall assembly during more than 99% of all rain events are lower than
20 Pa.
Hence, based on the data, it can be concluded that for the vast majority of the time during rain, the wind
pressure acting on building enclosures during rain deposition is likely to be small (under 20 Pa). Even in Sydney
NS, the average stagnation pressure is less than 40 Pa (although this pressure occurs fairly often in this
location). Gust pressures can be twice these average pressures, but they tend to act for small fractions of time.
The pressures used in testing (commonly 137 Pa or more) are too high to be considered realistic or indicative
of the conditions leading to rain control failures commonly discovered in the field. Such test pressures may be
useful for diagnostics and quality control however. Locations in climates affected by hurricanes may very well
be different as they receive high rainfall rates coincidentally with high wind speeds. This is the subject of on-
going research.

DRIVING RAIN ON BUILDINGS


The driving rain data presented above is a meteorological measure of climate. Building designers are more
concerned with the amount of rain that is deposited onto the face of a building. The values given in the plots
of directional driving rain can be modified to provide estimates of the quantity of driving rain deposition on a
building. The first step is to assess the influence of building shape and aerodynamics, and the second is to
correct for wind exposure.

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Wind Pressure (Pa)
0.6 2.4 5.4 9.6 15 22 29
15%

12%
During Rain
All hours
Relative Probability (%)

9%

6%

3%

0%
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Wind Speed (m/s)

FIGURE 6: RELATIVE PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTION OF RAINFALL, WIND SPEED, AND


WIND PRESSURE FOR SEATTLE, WA FROM 25 YEARS OR HOURLY DATA
Building Shape and Aerodynamics
When wind encounters a building, streamlines and pressure gradients form around it. While it is clear that
driving rain is re-directed by these streams of air (since the droplets are carried with the wind), accounting for
this effect is difficult.
A simple and practical approach for estimating rain deposition on buildings is to divide driving rain deposition
into the effects of the undisturbed wind (the free wind driving rain, a climate and site specific value) and the
effect of the aerodynamics and geometry of the local building. A linear factor, the rain deposition factor
(RDF), can be used to transforms the rate of driving rain in the free wind (i.e. outside of the region disturbed
by a building) to the rate of rain deposition on a particular building [Straube 1998]. Therefore for a particular
orientation and spot on the building face:
rvb = RDF· DRF· V(h)· cos ( ) · rh (7)
2
where rvb is the rain deposition rate on a vertical building surface(l/m /h),
 is the angle between the normal to the wall and the wind direction,
DRF is the Driving Rain Factor, which accounts for interaction of the wind and rain in the
undisturbed wind, and
RDF is the Rain Deposition Factor, the ratio of rain in the free wind to rain deposition on a
building, which accounts for the effect of building shape and size on rain deposition.
The RDF is a function of the building's shape, aerodynamics, the wind's angle of attack, raindrop diameter, and
wind speed. In general, since most rain events are of low intensity and have a similar distribution of raindrop
sizes, average values of RDF measured in the field over a range of driving rain events have shown somewhat

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consistent results [Straube 1998] and have shown to predict a special case on a 15 minute basis [Straube 1997].
It is interesting to note that recent computer modeling back by field measurements [Block and Carmeliet 2004]
have provided strong evidence to support a single RDF factor independent of rainfall intensity. Again, this
conclusion would need to be confirmed in hurricane regions because of their different pattern of rain and wind.
The most important dependencies are with the building shape and aerodynamics, and hence these are
investigated below.
Other than Straube [1997, 1998] and Schwarz [1973] the literature contains few references of simultaneous
measurements of driving rain in the environment and the driving-rain deposition on a building. However,
when results from the literature of field measurements [Schwarz 1973, Frank 1973, Sandin 1988, Flori 1992,
Henriques 1992, Kuenzel 1994, Straube 1998, Blocken and Carmeliet 2000], wind tunnel tests [Inculet 1994],
and computer modeling [Choi 1994, Karagiozis et al 1997, Blocken and Carmeliet 2000] are evaluated in terms
of calculated RDF there is a reasonable agreement of results. Until the results of further research are available,
the RDF values given in Figure 7 (compiled from the references listed) are recommended. An RDF of 1.0
appears to be appropriate near the upper corners of blunt-edged, rectangular buildings. Over small areas with
unusual or complex geometries (notches in the elevation of a building), much higher RDF values may be more
realistic. An RDF of much less than one is likely over most areas of most buildings.

FIGURE 7: RAIN DEPOSITION FACTOR (RDF)


Peaked roofs and overhangs redirect airflow up and over the building at a distance further from the facade
(Figure 8) and can thereby have a significant effect on rain deposition (regardless of the building size)[Inculet
1994]. For example, adding a 1.5 m wide canopy to a multi-storey building will result in a lower RDF value and
can, in theory, be an effective and economical means of improving rain control. Similarly, a peaked roof not

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only leaks less than a low-slope roof, it may also reduce the amount of driving rain on walls by deflecting the
wind [Straube 1998].

FIGURE 8: INFLUENCE OF OVERHANGS ON WIND AROUND BUILDINGS


Wind Exposure Corrections
It is clear from Equation 7 that rain deposition will increase directly with wind speed. Equation 7 is only
accurate if the wind speed at the height of interest is applied and the terrain and site features are accounted for.
This requires that the wind speed from weather data (typically collected at a height 10 m above grade in open
terrain) be corrected. Wind speeds are also accelerated close to the ground on hilltops, and will be higher in
exposed conditions (open country) than for buildings protected by other houses, by trees or by hills. Hence,
building facades protected from high wind speeds are also protected from driving rain. The fact that wind
speed increases rather rapidly with height means that the driving rain exposure of tall buildings is much higher
than for low-rise buildings. Although there is only one study of rain deposition on tall buildings that measured
rain deposition over the height of a building [Schwarz 1973], the results support the approach taken below.
Other studies on tall buildings (van Mook 1999 , Lacy 1965] have been undertaken.
Using modified versions of the wind speed factors from the National Building Code of Canada [NBCC 1995]
Figure 9 plots a wind exposure correction factor versus height and terrain. This factor can be used to adjust
the amount of driving rain predicted by Equation 7. Exposed and sheltered locations are recommended based
on the “speed up” function in the NBCC and the authors’ experience measuring driving rain.

EXAMPLE
As an example of using the data and methods described, consider two different walls in Toronto, one facing
east and one west. Figure 3 shows a free wind driving rain quantity of 150 mm/yr for the west and 300 mm/yr
for the east. If one considers a bungalow wall 2 m above grade, sheltered by closely spaced houses in a suburb,
the 150 mm/yr would be modifying by a factor of 0.7 (from Figure 9) and a further reduction factor of 0.5
(from the note on sheltering). If the bungalow had a peaked roof with a 300 mm overhang, an RDF of 0.5
would capture the highest rain values. The result would be a driving rain total of 150*0.7*0.5*0.5= 26 mm per
year, which is equivalent to 26 liters per m2 per year.
For an east facing wall on the top floor of a 50 m tall blunt edged (RDF=1.0) condominium in a suburban
exposure, Figure 9 provides a correction factor of 1.5. Using and RDF of 1 for the top corners, the driving
rain deposition would be predicted to be 300 * 1.5 * 1.0 * 1.0 = 450 mm per year or 450 l/m2/year – almost
20 times as much rain as the sheltered low-rise bungalow wall facing west.

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This example demonstrates the very significant influence of exposure and orientation in a climate. It should
also be noted that the combination of high exposure and choice of building shape (high RDF) in a low driving
rain climate (such as Edmonton) can result in much more rain deposition than a sheltered low rise building in a
high driving rain climate (such as Vancouver).

50

40 Exposure:
City Center
Open Country
Suburban
Height Above Grade [m]

30

20

10

0
0.5 0.8 1.0 1.3 1.5 1.8 2.0
Velocity Correction Factor

Recommended multiplication factors to apply to above:


Sheltered: 0.5 if buildings or obstruction of building height are within a distance equal to
twice the building height
Exposed: 1.3 if at the crest of hill or for that part of a building above an obstruction to flow

FIGURE 9: WIND SPEED CORRECTION FACTORS FOR DIFFERENT EXPOSURES AND


HEIGHTS

CONCLUSIONS
Driving rain data, and the methodology for deriving them, have been presented for several locations in Canada.
Simple modification factors have also been introduced to allow for the impact of wind exposure and building
shape.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This research has been supported by grants from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the National
Science and Engineering Research Council. This support is gratefully acknowledged.

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