Have you seen the photographs of Florida neighborhoods showing houses devastated by Irma next to intact houses? The difference is the intact houses were built to the current building code. After Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992, the Florida Building Code underwent significant revisions. The success of those changes was apparent during the 2004 hurricanes of Hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne. Structural damage due to wind was minor in buildings built to the new code but rain entry became an issue. After the 2004 hurricane season, control of rainwater entry became a priority.
The codes adopted for use in South Carolina, the International Building Code (IBC) and the International Residential Code (IRC), incorporate the wind, rain, and flood aspects of the Florida Building Code. This includes the following:
· Keep the building from blowing away by tying the building together from the roof rafters to the foundation and designing to withstand wind shear.
· The windows and doors need to be impact rated or otherwise protected from flying objects.
· The exterior finishes should be securely fastened to the structure to resist the hurricane winds.
· Keep the rain out by flashing all windows, doors and other penetrations.
· Drain the water away from the building.
· Elevate the building above the flood plain.
· Build with material that tolerate soaking.
· Design the exterior walls to easily dry when they become wet.
It is common to hear someone lamenting, contractors add an upcharge because I live in “NAME ANY DEVELOPMENT IN BEAUFORT COUNTY”. This is not true. It costs more to build in Beaufort County because building to meet the code for hurricanes costs more.
We are fortunate that Beaufort County and our local municipalities building departments are very strict in enforcing the IBC and IRC. This is not true in all communities. We were talking with a contractor for a project on St. Simons Island, Georgia and mentioned that we would use impact glass. He said, “Well, we don’t use impact glass very often. We usually just have plywood cut to fit the windows for the building inspector and then we reuse the plywood on the next job.”
Through stringent adherence to the building codes, the destruction from hurricanes can be reduced. The goal is expressed best by City Manager Jim Scholl of Key West when he was interviewed about his experience during Irma on NPR Wednesday morning. Scholl said that he rode out the storm in city hall which is a brand new building built to the Florida Building Code and they did not have any damage to the building. They were fine. Everybody here, myself and my team felt very safe.