By Chuck Miccolis
Among the biggest threats to all buildings during hurricanes and many other severe weather events are wind and water damage. Wind-related damage is quickly rivaling fire as the leading source of loss for commercial properties.
In 1989, commercial losses from fires cost $7 billion, compared to $2 billion in losses due to wind; by 2009 wind losses had surpassed $7 billion, while fire losses were approaching $8 billion, according to data from ISO's Property Claim Services. By focusing on several key components and elements when constructing a new business, including the roof, doors, walls, the right products and installation, and proper elevation, business owners can significantly improve commercial building performance in high-wind and water events through relatively low-cost mitigation measures.
Get the Roof Right and Keep it Strong
The roof is your business' first line of defense against hurricanes and other natural disasters, but it's also a building's greatest vulnerability. Every day, the roof is exposed to weather and other elements that may contribute to decay and deterioration, which increase the risk of damage during an event like Hurricane Sandy.
Getting the roof right starts with choosing the right type of design, selecting the right materials, and following proper installation practices at the time of construction or when remodeling. The right roof design begins with determining design wind loads using a modern wind load standard such as the American Society of Civil Engineers Standard 7 (2005 or later edition) "Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Structures." The actual design involves selecting a suitable roof cover and designing the attachment and flashing details needed to properly resist the loads.
It is equally important to implement a regular program of roof inspection, maintenance and repair -- activities that should be part of your operational planning in order to prolong the useful life of your roof and make sure it does its job in protecting your business from weather damage. For example, it is important and relatively inexpensive to ensure roof elements are securely anchored to a roof deck, particularly around the perimeter, and that flashing is robust and well-attached.
Use the Right Products and Install Them Correctly to Achieve Optimal Results in High Winds
Business owners who want to stay in business and quickly recover from catastrophes like Sandy should lease, buy, or build stronger, safer structures. Carefully following high-wind construction guidance and choosing slightly more expensive products and systems can produce significantly stronger. Examples of "stronger" wind-resistant construction details and installation techniques include additional steel rods and better detailing of the reinforcing in the masonry walls, enhanced perimeter anchorage of roof membrane and flashing, anchorage of roof-top equipment and wind locks on roll-up doors.
Proper Elevation is Effective for Flood Mitigation
Proximity to water is the top risk factor for flooding. This includes coastal storm surge, which was seen in Hurricane Sandy; rising river waters, as occurred during Hurricane Irene in 2011; and overtopping, breaching or opening of dams, levees and other flood control mechanisms, as was the case during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It is always a best practice to locate property far away from bodies of water, but if your business must be near water, the building must be elevated. Business owners whose facilities were destroyed by Sandy should use this rebuilding opportunity to elevate buildings above the minimum base flood elevation standards established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and used in the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA recently issued revised advisory base flood elevation maps. It is important to note that FEMA recommendations are not the law. Towns still must incorporate the guidance into local zoning and building ordinances.
Institute for Business & Home Safety strongly recommends that businesses in areas at high risk of flooding adopt the FEMA standards as the minimum level of protection. Elevating at least 3 feet above the base flood elevation or FEMA advisory base flood elevation standards is optimum.
Chuck Miccolis is the
IBHS Commercial Lines Engineer.
February 13, 2013
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