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Juan Rodriguez

Disasters Promoting Building Code Changes

By August 4, 2011

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New Building Code Changes, Joplin, Missouri

Building Code Changes Joplin, Missouri

Photo davef3138

After being devastated by a powerful tornado, Joplin builders and contractors will be required to perform additional steps to protect their buildings against strong winds. Among the building codes changes being adopted by the city of Joplin, Missouri, wood rafters and wood trusses will be required to be installed using mechanical anchors. Those mechanical anchors will be required along with block foundations embedded in concrete, and anchor bolts installed at 4 foot spacing instead of the usual six foot.

Tornado safe room protection

However, city officials understand that these changes will not prevent home destruction during an EF-5 Tornado; they know that code provisions will enhance and promote safer building in the city. These code changes will be enforced starting on November 2011. An average estimate of this changes is sought to be in the range of $100- $200 when they rebuild. The city of Joplin was devastated on May 22nd by a large tornado. Another way of protecting life and property is by building safe rooms. A safe room is another economical alternative that can be used following FEMA standards. Many builders in the Missouri area preferred to build using Insulated Concrete Forms, stronger than traditional construction that provides the protection of a shelter along with energy savings and ease of construction.

City officials say these new codes will ensure that homes can withstand wind speeds of around 130 miles an hour.

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Comments

August 5, 2011 at 7:14 am
(1) Duke Geraghty says:

That $100 to $200 is a joke. We were told that in the 90′s when NC adopted a wind code. Actual cost is about a $1000 for a 2000 sq ft house. Larger homes and anything more elaborate requiring engineering can run $2500 or more. We have made a rich company out of Simpson. How did we let them get so involved in the code process? Pretty self serving I think

August 5, 2011 at 10:18 am
(2) Warren Wakeland says:

Duke, I was going to bring up that very example but you beat me to it. You’re never going to prevent destruction from an EF-5, even if you build a 14th-century castle. New homes are so expensive today that anytime regulation is considered, cost must also be considered. That rarely happens. Duke is right — it won’t be $100-$200.

I understand why they’re concerned in Joplin. They should be. They were devastated. But what I’ve found in almost 15 years of working with government — what we found in 2000 and 2001 in NC — is that anytime there is a natural disaster, government overreacts. That doesn’t mean they need to do nothing. It means they have to be reasonable and consider whether or not the regulating is making building and development too expensive. And you mandate what is NECESSARY, not what you think will withstand a 170-mph or more tornado because that ain’t happening.

August 5, 2011 at 12:35 pm
(3) Doug McCall says:

I couldn’t agree more with Duke and Warren. I believe it is an unwritten requirement for government to always over-react first and act reasonably at some other time.

No amount of money, mechanical anchors, or structural over-design is going to hold a building together in an EF-4 tornado, let alone an EF-5. On the other hand, it is necessary to provide a safe refuge for people, not just in Joplin, but throughout tornado alley. The true purpose of all our building codes is the preservation of life. If the building is detroyed in an event while protecting the occupants, we consider the building successful. In high wind events a safe room is essential to preserve life. The rest of the building is expendable. Any new code or required additional costs should be focused on providing a safe refuge that will save your life. Period.

September 19, 2011 at 6:10 pm
(4) Don Asquith says:

on many points agreed, but mostly one point. Disasters in general don’t kill people–inept building practices do! I certainly do not need the govt. to tell me that I should anchor my buildings top to bottom for all anticipated and unanticipated loading. Steel configurations that fit the job–hey make’em in your backyard if you want –in my book. Simpson just beat u to it and they do them cheaper and have been “govt” approved. In hind sight–we can look at almost any disaster and see what cause it? Experts can anyway. Did anyone notice the difference in concrete rubble from Haiti and Chile? Both indicated a distinct difference in failure mode. Clearly in Joplin there was a hold-down issue, but under such dynamic loading major damage can be expected, but total damage can be avoided with some knwledgable builders doing the right things with or w/o the govt. oversight.

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