Industry groups closed 2005 with a campaign aimed at informing federal, state and local government officials of the need to closely monitor post-Hurricane
DON MARSH, EDITOR
Industry groups closed 2005 with a campaign aimed at informing federal, state and local government officials of the need to closely monitor post-Hurricane Katrina building code adoption and enforcement in the Gulf Coast region. Concrete interests encouraged federal legislators to stipulate that design of new or replacement residential and commercial buildings in the hardest hit communities will factor in International Building Code (IBC)- and International Residential Code (IRC)-level hurricane wind resistance. They also implore state and local officials to recognize how newer code provisions protect people and property.
A unified call for hurricane-worthy new construction emanates from the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association and National Concrete Masonry Association, along with the NRMCA/PCA-backed Alliance for Concrete Codes & Standards. As much as ready mixed and concrete masonry interests might compete in certain markets, when faced with questions of building quality and occupant safety, they can be counted on for common, performance-based solutions.
In a Nov. 30 letter to Congress, NCMA President Mark Hogan acknowledged that while building code decisions are mostly state and local matters, an event of Katrina’s magnitude Û with rebuilding costs running in the hundreds of billions Û warrants federal involvement. Universal adoption of a state-of-the-art wind-resistive building code and reliable code enforcement are key factors the feds should consider in post-Hurricane Katrina rebuilding efforts, he noted. America needs to rebuild destroyed homes in a manner that ensures future hurricanes will not yield the same catastrophic residential property damage as did Katrina. The need for strong codes and consistent enforcement was evidenced in Florida when Hurricane Andrew devastated thousands of homes. The lesson was simple: In order for buildings to survive major wind events, construction in hurricane-prone regions [needs to] meet a higher wind-resistive standard, Hogan explained.
The changes implemented in Florida have had a positive impact in hardening new residences against major wind storms. Florida homes built to the better standard and with better code enforcement have already shown much greater capacity to resist damage and destruction in wind events since Andrew.
Hogan’s letter was timed with the end of the 2005 hurricane season. Leading up to his alert to Congress, NRMCA successfully lobbied the Louisiana legislature and Gov. Kathleen Blanco to enact a law for statewide IBC and IRC adoption. That was followed by a letter to Mississippi newspaper editors in which NRMCA President Robert Garbini noted how the state’s adoption of a minimum IBC/IRC-based building code would go a long way toward ensuring that Mississippi will never again have to confront the level of damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina.
The case for IBC/IRC-level hurricane exposure provisions in Katrina-ravaged areas draws on widely recognized engineering practice. Calls for improved building codes and stipulations that federal government relief or future property underwriting hinge on tougher codes are highly appropriate, since taxpayers and insurance customers across the country will help foot the Gulf Coast rebuilding bill.
Amid concrete groups’ code promotion, Allstate Corp. Û in an unusual nod to the importance of construction quality Û launched a national advertising campaign for better catastrophe preparedness. Among ideas offered: Rebuild smarter and stronger. In some parts of the country, building codes aren’t strong enough to make buildings withstand the catastrophes likely to occur.
If IBC- and IRC-level code provisions are adopted and enforced in Louisiana and Mississippi, owners and occupants of new Gulf Coast homes and buildings could see what it really means to be in good hands. If state and local officials who control building codes and permits in recovering areas ignore current wind-resistive standards, they might think twice about sticking their hands out when confronted with rebuilding post-Katrina structures felled by future hurricanes.
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