Life Safety

New Building Codes Call for Storm-Resistant Buildings and Shelters

Large parts of the Cen­tral U.S. and the U.S. Gulf coast are dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly affect­ed by tor­na­dos, wind­storms and hur­ri­canes that threat­en prop­er­ty and per­son­al safe­ty. Tor­na­do Alley, the nick­name giv­en to the south­ern plains states includ­ing Texas, Okla­homa, Kansas, Nebras­ka, Col­orado and South Dako­ta, typ­i­cal­ly expe­ri­ences severe weath­er dur­ing the spring and ear­ly fall. The states along the Gulf Coast face volatile storm sys­tems and tor­na­dos in the late fall dur­ing hur­ri­cane sea­son.

Many tor­na­do- and wind­storm-prone states and munic­i­pal­i­ties are adopt­ing more strin­gent life-safe­ty build­ing codes and stan­dards that are chal­leng­ing archi­tects and con­trac­tors to design stronger and safer struc­tures. In many cas­es, these codes require inte­ri­or safe rooms or stand-alone build­ings that are designed to pro­vide what the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (FEMA) has termed as near absolute pro­tec­tion” to build­ing occu­pants in areas where wind­storms are more com­mon.

The urgency of build­ing accord­ing to these new stan­dards has increased in recent years with the dev­as­ta­tion of com­mu­ni­ties across the Mid­west and South­east because of tor­na­does, along with the severe and cost­ly destruc­tion of cities and towns across the U.S. Gulf Coast from large storms like Hur­ri­cane Kat­ri­na.

These new life-safe­ty require­ments can cre­ate finan­cial chal­lenges, espe­cial­ly for schools and oth­er high occu­pan­cy build­ings that may now be required to pro­vide FEMA rat­ed safe rooms for all build­ing occu­pants. Insu­lat­ed con­crete block is an ide­al mate­r­i­al that meets these require­ments.

Wall sys­tems that use con­crete are proven to offer a great com­bi­na­tion of per­for­mance and cost effec­tive­ness for con­struct­ing haz­ard-resis­tant build­ings and safe rooms that can with­stand the pow­er­ful winds and destruc­tive fly­ing debris asso­ci­at­ed with tor­na­does and hur­ri­canes. Tests per­formed at the Texas Tech Wind Sci­ence and Engi­neer­ing (WiSE) labs have con­firmed that insu­lat­ed con­crete blocks with a mason­ry fin­ish pro­vides a stronger, more cost effec­tive option for pro­vid­ing wind debris pro­tec­tion while also deliv­er­ing supe­ri­or ener­gy effi­cien­cy, fire safe­ty, and noise reduc­tion. This build­ing tech­nique offers archi­tects and con­trac­tors a solu­tion to address the chal­lenges of con­struct­ing com­mer­cial build­ings that can with­stand extreme weath­er and pro­tect their occu­pants.