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Hurricane Codes and Standards Shore Up Structures In Impossible Weather

New York, Sep 16, 2003

As Hurricane Isabel approaches, homeowners along the coastal regions of Virginia and South Carolina are taking the necessary precautions against winds that could reach speeds of 130 mph by boarding up windows and reinforcing other building elements. In hurricane-prone regions, special building codes and test standards have been adopted to ensure the integrity of the structure and the safety of its inhabitants.

After the devastation and damage of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, building codes in Florida were strengthened so that new regulations would help buildings handle different wind loads. Regulations cover the building of wood homes, concrete homes, those on stilts or piers, and those with tile, metal or shingle roofs. There are standards for securing roofs, and building departments have lists of approved products that meet the wind-borne debris standards. South Florida’s codes are said to be some of the most stringent in the nation.

Developed under the ANSI-approved Consensus Procedures of the International Code Council (ICC), the Standard for Determining Impact Resistance from Windborne Debris, Standard for Determining Wind Resistance of Concrete or Clay Roof Tiles, Standard on Soil Expansion, and the Standard for Hurricane Resistant Residential Construction all work in conjunction with the ICC International Building Code and other model building codes.

Typical standards for wind-borne debris impact tests are also written by ASTM International, an ANSI member and accredited standards developer. The ASTM documents are the first national consensus references for wind-borne debris protection and set the test method (E-1886) and provide a specification (E-1996) for determining the performance of windows, doors, garage doors and storm shutters.

Another standard developed by the Door & Access Systems Manufacturers Association (DASMA), another ANSI member and accredited standards developer, is ANSI/DASMA 115-2003, Standard Method of Testing Garage Doors: Determination of Structural Performance Under Missile Impact and Cyclic Wind Pressure. The standard is a test of a garage door’s ability to withstand windstorms and windborne debris. During the test, a garage door is subjected to cyclic tests, which replicate hurricane winds, and a 2x4 board becomes the projectile picked up by the wind.

Wind is not the only threat associated with severe weather. Flooding can cause serious damage to home appliances and electronics. The Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) warns that flood-damaged plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical appliances and related systems should be replaced, rather than repaired. Devices at risk include water heaters, furnaces, boilers, room heaters and air conditioners. Although a flooded appliance may be repaired and operational for a time, GAMA stresses that the appliance will deteriorate and present serious hazards such as fires or explosions.

Building codes and testing standards are key to building and maintaining a safe home under myriad environmental conditions. Homeowners should work with their builder, engineer and architect to discuss their options.

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