We’re well into the 2015 tornado and hurricane season, and already parts of the country have seen the devastation that high winds can bring.
For builder customers, designing homes to withstand the devastating forces of these ravaging storms is one of their greatest challenges—but they’re not insurmountable. In fact, by following a few simple steps, homes can be built to withstand 95% of tornadoes using the same wood framing materials builders and dealers are already familiar with.
“We get a lot of requests from local engineers about different ways they can frame the buildings,” says Andy Barber, a salesman at component manufacturer and building materials supplier Atlantic Building Components in Monk’s Corner, S.C. “We’re helping them design a system that’s cost effective while still fulfilling the architect’s vision.”
A home that is carefully constructed, in accordance with current building codes, can survive the smaller, less violent EF-0, EF-1, and EF-2 tornadoes. While it’s more difficult for homes to survive EF-3, EF-4, and Ef-5 storms, good construction details can make a difference, particularly when the structure is located along the outer reaches of the tornado vortex.
Whether caused by a tornado or severe straight-line winds, high wind forces travel through the load path of the structure. Good connections that tie the floor, walls, and roof together provide continuity in the load path and more reliable building performance.
“I try to educate builders on the use of wood structural panels as their primary connection providing continuity,” Barber says. “A lot of engineers specify steel straps and clips to keep houses from tipping over or blowing apart. But if you bump up to 5/8″ panels and change the nailing pattern you can really get rid of a lot of the steel connectors in a house.”