America has recently been reminded just how powerful mother nature can be when hurricanes and tropical storms take form on our land. Over the past few weeks, many areas of the US have undergone severe storms that have left thousands of homes and businesses in ruin. Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, and Hurricane Matthew have caused crippling damage throughout Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, and Texas. Our thoughts are with all that have been affected by the storms and we wish you a speedy bounce back to your feet.
With that being said, this article contains steel building information pertaining to storm resiliency. We hope that this article is useful for those of you that need to rebuild, and are looking into building the second time around with stronger, more durable materials.
Location Based Customization
Steel buildings can handle a wide range of environments and climates because they can be customized to fit those different climates and locations. Different types of disasters call for different building specifications. Read the sections below to find out how steel buildings can be built to survive hurricanes, fire, flood, and heavy wind loads, all potential dangers in certain areas throughout the United States.
First, let’s briefly discuss the strength of steel versus other building materials: The long life and strength of metal buildings are comparable to none – not wood, not stone and cement, not any other type of building material. Out of all building material, steel has the strongest strength to weight ratio.
Hurricanes are tropical cyclones that have high winds. (Specifically, for a storm to be considered a hurricane, it must reach a wind force of 12 on the Beaufort scale.) A combination of high winds and storm surge can cause catastrophic damage to buildings, resulting in ripped off roofs and walls, damaged siding from windswept debris, and water damage. In order to combat high winds and damage causing debris, we utilize a stronger gauge of steel to improve impact resistance and create better wind uplift. Specifically, we build our walls with 26 gauge steel for walls, and 24 gauge steel for the roof.
See how steel buildings have faired through the largest Hurricanes of our time in this Wind Design and Performance article by MBMA.
High wind loads happen during many types of storms and are also inherent to certain locations, like buildings alongside large bodies of water. Steel buildings are more stable than other structures due to their strong components as well as their greater stability, created by the thick, concrete foundation that the building is bolted to. For steel buildings, each side of a building is assigned a wind exposure type, which is determined by the strongest possible wind that can occur on that side of the building.
We categorize wind exposure into four types: A, B, C, and D. When a steel building is in a high wind area without protection or blockage from another building, or trees, then we specify that side or in some instances, the entire building, for wind exposure type D. This means that standing seam framing styles, stronger doors, deeper bolts, and more strength building components might be added to a Steelsmith steel building to increase strength. Note: It’s immensely important that a building remains intact during a storm. When a door is torn off during a storm, air is let in that opening, which causes internal pressure, which then weakens the building and causes other, large damages to occur like walls or the roof getting torn off.
Learn more about about wind exposure for steel buildings in this blog post: Why Wind Exposure Matters in a Steel Building.
Thunderstorms and Fire
Thunderstorms is a type of inclement weather that happen in all areas around the country, in some more than others. Thunderstorms can cause fires when lightening strikes. Unlike other buildings, steel buildings transfer the charge of lightning, and don’t absorb it. What you might find surprising, is that when a steel building is struck by lightning, the electric shock transfers through the building into the ground, safely dispersing the charge into the earth.
In areas that have a high risk of wildfires, steel is an inherently good choice for building material. Steel buildings are well known for their resistance to fire, since steel is a non-combustible material with a high melting point, which prevents damage from high temperatures. Intumescent coatings, insulation sprays, and concrete encasements can also be added to your steel buildings to protect them even more, from fire.
Read our Fire Resistance blog to learn more.
Floods can happen in a variety of areas – to structures near large bodies of water, in areas with less permeable soil, and/or from storms that bring heavy rain. Building materials like wood and other organic materials, are more permeable, and therefore absorb water, decreasing the life of buildings and leading such materials to rot. Steel is much less permeable than other building materials; however, it does have the potential to rust. This is why in areas where flood is a possibility, we coat key elements of our steel buildings with zinc. We also use pre-galvanized secondary framing to our buildings, and add galvanized flange bracing and galvanized base angles to steel buildings to potential flood locations.
Ultimately, steel buildings can be built nearly anywhere and outlive other building types. With the right customization, steel buildings can withstand hurricanes, heavy wind loads, thunderstorms and fire, and floods. In many instances, Steelsmith steel buildings are built to help people who have undergone one of these disasters.
Currently, we are building a structure for a customer in Michigan who had a fire, and needed a new building. He chose a Steelsmith steel building because he knew he would get a building that is built to combat future instances of the like. We are also supplying a steel building for a customer who has undergone flooding to their home in Louisiana, and is rebuilding this time with steel. At Steelsmith, we know how to build steel buildings to combat certain elements that can be devastating. We support our customers, and give them all of the information they want and need to help them make the right decisions. In turn, allowing for educated decisions during the build process that will suit their needs, and properly combat any inclement forces of nature possible in their area.
Rebuild Stronger. Rebuild With Steel
Mother Nature has a habit of repeating herself. Unfortunately, hurricanes will inevitably hit again in the deep south and near the Gulf Coast. It’s just a matter of time. So when building, we recommend you do so with the next disaster in mind. As a steel building company, we can help inform you about the merits of building with steel.
We want to help in any way we can and work together to heal our country from the trail of destruction that has been left behind. If you are simply looking for more information regarding steel buildings, we encourage you to download our Steel Building Buyers Guide.
If you have questions about storm customizations or questions regarding your specific situation, leave us a comment on this post, submit our contact form, or give us a call to speak directly to one of our project managers at 1.866.603.5053 (M-F 9-5PM EST). The Steelsmith team is here to support you and help you rebuild stronger the second time around.