Tornado-Devastated Oklahoma Town Adopts New Residential Building Codes

March 19, 2014

City leaders in Moore, Okla., have approved new residential building codes requiring new homes to be built to withstand winds of up to 135 mph, making it the first U.S. city to adopt construction rules aimed at preventing catastrophic tornado damage.

The building standard requires homes to withstand winds of up to 90 mph. The Moore City Council approved 11 building code recommendations made by structural engineers who examined damage after last year’s deadly tornado.

Houses built under the new code still wouldn’t have held up to a direct hit from an EF5 tornado like the one that devastated the city May 20, Mayor Glenn Lewis said. But the changes could save structures and lives in a less powerful storm, he said.

“We have seen from this tornado, progressive construction techniques that can survive strong winds. We can learn from this devastating event to build stronger homes and neighborhoods across the United States – and it starts in Moore,” Lewis said.

City officials warned that homes still need storm shelters, even new houses built under the stricter building code. Last year’s tornado carried winds of 200 mph to 210 mph.

“This is an added layer of protection for property and life,” Community Development Director Elizabeth Jones said. “It should not be considered the only protection for property and life.”

Marvin Haworth of the Moore Home Builders Association said the changes will increase the cost of homebuilding by about $1 per square foot.

“The homebuilders are accepting this as a good thing,” Haworth said. “We think this is going to improve the quality of homes in the Moore area. We feel like it is going to address the problems we have with tornadoes.”

The changes go into effect April 17.

 

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