By: Jan R. Prusinski, PE
In a May 11, 2012 op/ed piece in the Houston Chronicle entitled "Building Materials Are Key to Limiting Storm Deaths," Dr. Mukaddes Darwish, associate professor of construction engineering and engineering technology at Texas Tech stated that: "Research at Texas Tech University and elsewhere has shown that only masonry or reinforced concrete walls can protect against lethal flying debris that might be encountered during a tornado with wind speeds up to 130 mph."
He also noted the inadequacy of stick-built construction in homes and commercial structures to offer resistance to both collapse, and protection from storm-induce projectiles.
Reinforced walls, he states, are standards worldwide, except in the U.S. He implores city officials to improve the building codes so that more resilient construction standards are adopted.
The Portland Cement Association has been leading the charge to incorporate "functional resilience" concepts into building/construction codes (see my blogs "Resilience = Sustainability," and "'Functional Resilience' - What, Me Worry?." These blogs will introduce you to the concept of "functional resilience" and why it is so important.
The costs of incorporating more resilient construction need not be "too much," (an argument often made by those lobbying against improved building standards). Lubbock--the home of Texas Tech, and a city in the bulls-eye of many tornadoes--is a prime example of making resilient construction affordable. The city has helped build over 130 affordable low-income insulated concrete form homes (see "Lubbock ICF Low-Income Homes Now Number More Than 130" and "Lubbock ICF Homes - Near Cost-Parity with Stick-Built"). ICF structures, such as the Trinity United Methodist Church in Arlington, can even serve as community storm shelters.
Of course resilient masonry and concrete can take many forms: Masonry, ICFs, and tilt-up construction, to name a few (for more, visit PCA's Concrete Homes website).
As home owners, and as customers and workers in commercial buildings, we should insist that our elected officials and building code managers know that we want our standards improved so that we can be adequately protected, and so that our communities remain functional after severe events. Texas is no stranger to tornadoes, hurricanes and wildfires.
"This blog was previously posted in the Cement Council of Texas' "Texas Cement and Concrete Blog" (now inactive) and was carried forward to the current blog ("Cementx Pavement Blog") as it contains content that may be of interest to the reader".
The Cementx Pavement Blog seeks to make pavement owners, engineers and contractors smarter about selecting, designing, constructing and maintaining pavements. New blog postings began February 1, 2017; however, we carried over pavement-related blog postings from our older blog, the "Texas Cement and Concrete Blog," which ran until December 2016.