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.