Volume 12, Issue 6 - July/August 2011

From the Publisher


Tornado Force
BY Tara Taffera

AnyA major news event brings with it differing opinions on the given topic. A few of those come to mind under the topic of the 2011 devastating tornado season and how it may impact the building industry going forward. In the investigative series that begins on page 26 you will discover that there are as many different questions as there are answers. Will the codes change? Should they even change? Will we see more use of impact-resistant doors and windows, particularly to prevent against lesser tornadoes? Will homeowners pay more for this added protection? Will architects spec homes or buildings to voluntary tornado standards?

A dwmmag.com reader posted a comment recently to a story that talked about research done following the Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Joplin, Mo., tornadoes, and his comment sheds an interesting perspective on that last question.

“I meet with architects regularly to discuss anchoring windows in a fashion that would prevent or mitigate high wind damage and possible injury,” said the reader. “Last week I told an architect (the principal of a firm that does education work) about it and he said (in regards to the downloadable details on my website), ‘I don’t download that *@&^ .’ A lot of architects don’t want to be ‘bothered’ with information and it’s a daily battle to get them to listen to good and well-intentioned advice.”

Now this is only one comment and I know there are a lot of architects out there who do look for relevant info and who do specify according to the various standards. But it just confirms that there a variety of uphill battles to be fought in the quest for higher standards.

No one can deny that the loss of life and property was significant in the cases of Joplin and Tuscaloosa and that the industry needs to take a hard look at how they design for tornado-prone regions.

It was interesting that David Prevatt, an engineer who is heading up research for the National Science Foundation in Tuscaloosa and Joplin, didn’t claim to have all the answers on the topic of building new structures. He says this is an easier problem to solve than what to do with existing structures built prior to current building codes.

Although he may not have all the answers he isn’t giving up. He won’t forget about Tuscaloosa and Joplin and is working toward educating the industry so as a community we all can focus on workable solutions.

“If we can improve structural performance and reduce the amount of houses lost from 11,000 to 5,000 then that is an enormous improvement,” he says. “We can improve through use of better engineering details.”

But it will be a long process. In fact, the issue is so expansive that I couldn’t even cover it one feature. So look for future articles in this investigative series throughout 2011. And of course, if you have insights on the issue to share please contact me at ttaffera@glass.com.


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