Alabama Condo Complex Earns IBHS’ First-Ever Hurricane Gold Designation

December 3, 2018

Local developers in coastal Alabama that utilized Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s (IBHS) FORTIFIED Commercial construction standards in the design of a coastal condominium complex have earned the first-ever FORTIFIED Commercial–Hurricane Gold.

The new Colonial Inn Condominiums in Fairhope, built on the site of the early 20th century Colonial Inn Hotel overlooking Mobile Bay, Ala., was built to be more resilient to the impacts of severe wind events.

Colonial Inn Condominiums in Fairhope, Ala. Photo Courtesy of IBHS

According to IBHS, FORTIFIED Commercial Gold creates a strong continuous load path, which ties the entire structure together – enabling it to better stand firm against extreme winds during hurricanes. It also includes onsite power backup for important utilities. IBHS said in a statement it is the highest level of resiliency certification offered by IBHS.

“IBHS worked closely with the developers of the Colonial Inn Condominiums to incorporate specially designed FORTIFIED Commercial standards and best building practices to ensure this residential complex can better mitigate the risks of property damage caused by hurricanes and other wind-driven weather events that impact coastal communities,” said Chuck Miccolis, vice president, commercial lines, IBHS.

Carlton Niemeyer, who developed the project along with native Fairhopians Ed and Wes Overton, said the concept for the project began more than 10 years ago, but plans were interrupted by hurricanes Ivan and Katrina. The Overton brothers grew up at the Colonial Inn that their parents managed until 1992, when the seaside hotel was destroyed by a fire.

“Our initial plans were to use wood frame construction for all of the condo’s buildings, but high insurance premiums and scarce and expensive building materials sent us in another direction,” Niemeyer said. “After evaluating all our options, it became obvious to us that based on insurance savings, as well as cost and time to complete the basic structure, that insulating concrete form (ICF) and FORTIFIED construction was our best choice for the condominiums. We also decided to pursue IBHS’ FORTIFIED Gold level certification, ensuring the buildings met the highest standards for resiliency.”

The project consists of five units, each containing approximately 2,500 square feet of living space and a two-car garage. In total, there are three buildings on the site. Buildings one (four residential units) and two (one unit) are two-story ICF FORTIFIED construction. Building three is single-story, frame construction and only contains garages.

The Colonial Inn Condominium’s development team are all Fairhope-based businesses. This includes Clay Adams, of Walcott Adams Verneuille Architects, who developed the architectural plans; Martin Pitts, of J. Martin Pitts PE LLC, who created the structural plans; and Matt Hammond, of Hammond Construction LLC, who was the project’s general contractor.

Following more than 20 years of scientific research and real-world testing, IBHS developed a set of building guidelines and standards designed to provide additional protection from extreme weather events such as hurricane-force winds, rain and hail. The standards, known as FORTIFIED, have proven to be an effective and cost-efficient method for mitigating avoidable property casualty losses.

Over the past five years, IBHS has approved more than 7,000 FORTIFIED Homes in Alabama, which leads the nation in FORTIFIED construction, Miccolis said.

“With the Colonial Inn Condominiums project, in addition to the new Gulf State Park project in Gulf Shores, Ala., we have now established how commercial structures in Alabama can also be built stronger to withstand severe weather events,” Miccolis said. “While no structure is fully immune to nature’s most extreme weather, IBHS research continues to validate that mitigation and strong building codes are the best ways to prepare communities for natural disasters,” Miccolis said.

FORTIFIED Commercial designations are currently available only in Alabama.

FORTIFIED Commercial is a voluntary, superior construction standard and designation program designed by IBHS to make new commercial buildings stronger against severe weather, including hurricanes and high winds/high winds and hail. FORTIFIED Commercial employs an incremental approach with three levels of designations available—Bronze, Silver and Gold—so design professionals can work with building owners to choose a desired level of protection that best suits their budgets and resilience goals.

Source: Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety

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