Proof that Building Codes Work? Punta Gorda


Hurricane Ian slammed Punta Gorda, but a local contractor says, “Everything with a 2007 (building) code and beyond pretty much was fine.”

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. – Punta Gorda was hit hard by Hurricane Ian. Storm surge, wind damage, and other destruction were left in its wake, but a number of homes and buildings were largely still intact or had minimal damage to their exteriors. Modern building codes could be one explanation.

“It’s a demonstration that updated building codes really work,” says Nicholas Rajkovich, an associate professor in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University at Buffalo. “Buildings built to newer codes consistently have fared better during hurricanes and other storms than older homes.”

Joe Schortz, a resident of Punta Gorda and owner of a local construction and remodeling business, said that after 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, building codes were strengthened and then were updated again in 2007.

In the aftermath of Ian, the buildings left still standing seemed to have at least one thing in common: “Everything with a 2007 code and beyond pretty much was fine,” Schortz says.

Buildings constructed using modern codes have a slew of structural advantages that help them better withstand extreme weather, including major storms. For instance, updated codes often have stricter requirements around “structural load continuity,” which involves ensuring that a roof is well-connected to walls, and the walls are well-connected to the structure’s foundation, Rajkovich says.

He and other experts said updating codes and rebuilding in a way that reflects more challenging conditions can help communities adapt and become more resilient.

“This isn’t just a Florida issue. This is a national issue,” says Rajkovich. “Thinking about a national strategy for resilience is really important for this country to be able to adapt to climate change.”

Source: Washington Post (10/01/22) Chiu, Allyson; Matthews, Rich

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