Agencies bear down on tornados

Responding to increased interest in tornado safe rooms driven by National Weather Service-tracked patterns, plus recent, deadly events, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) has released new videos highlighting five of the most common building solutions.25 Safe 400

In an analysis of National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center data, FLASH officials note how nearly 90 percent of U.S. counties experienced tornado watches, averaging 27 hours per year between 2004 and 2013. The Alliance, Federal Emergency Management Administration and Portland Cement Association developed the “Which Tornado Safe Room is Right for You?” series to enable consumers to better understand their options through comparative information on cast-in-place, concrete masonry, insulating concrete form, precast concrete or wood-frame structures.

“Today’s marketplace offers an unprecedented range of high-performing, affordable options to save lives and preserve peace of mind for the millions of families in the path of severe weather,” says FLASH President Leslie Chapman-Henderson. “These videos will help families understand their options for a properly built safe room that will deliver life safety when it counts.”

Proposal for taller wood buildings hits brick WALL 

Convening in Memphis for International Code Council Committee Action Hearings, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association and allied-industry representatives helped defeat a proposal allowing wood-framed structures up to nine stories—four higher than the 2015 International Building Code permits for such construction.

The hearings were part of a 2015-2017 development cycle leading to 2018 International Building Code publication. NRMCA staff characterizes them as bringing “significant wins along with expected losses for the concrete industry,” the latter relating to proposals promoting greater fire robustness and resiliency for the 2018 IBC. NRMCA Vice President, Sustainability Tien Peng, along with Portland Cement Association and Masonry Alliance for Codes & Standards representatives, offered testimony resulting in preliminary 2018 IBC language not allowing the nine-story threshold for Type IV (heavy timber) construction; firewalls constructed with gypsum board-enclosed, cross-laminated timber; and, combustible-material substitutes for Type III construction (noncombustible exterior walls). Concrete groups will continue advocacy of provisions mandating, or friendly to, noncombustible material specifications in all appropriate conditions.

The Memphis hearings also saw general public and fire service stakeholders—mindful of the January 2015 conflagration that consumed more than half of the 408-unit, wood-framed Avalon at Edgewater apartment complex in northern New Jersey—express support for limits to combustible wood construction. Additional information on the ICC Committee Action Hearings can be obtained at