MOORE — In an historic move, Moore City Council members Monday night unanimously approved new, stringent residential building standards to strengthen homes against tornadoes.
The council OK’ed 14 proposed changes in the residential building code, including requiring hurricane clips or framing anchors, continuous plywood bracing and windresistant garage doors, and fortifying homes to withstand winds up to 135 miles per hour.
With the changes, Moore becomes the first U.S. city to adopt a building code that addresses a range of tornado effects on homes.
Moore has been devastated by deadly EF5 tornadoes not once, but twice. The city still is recovering from the May 20 tornado, but still fresh in the memory of many is the devastation from the May 3, 1999, tornado.
Houses built according to the proposed code still would not hold up to a direct hit from an EF5 tornado, such as the one that caused major damage May 20. But the improvements would protect a home and its residents in a lesser storm, and possibly even those on the fringes of an EF5, Mayor Glenn Lewis 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.
The changes approved Monday night go well above the national standards set by the National Association of Home Builders.
The council hopes the standards will serve as a model for other cities, particularly those vulnerable to tornadoes.
A more stringent building code also can help the city’s image if home builders are able to promote “safer” homes, homebuilder Marvin Haworth said.
Haworth was a member of a committee tasked with developing the recommendations. Also on the committee were city councilors, representatives of the Moore Home Builders Association, residents, and civil engineers Chris Ramseyer and Lisa Holliday.
Ramseyer and Holliday also were members of a team of researchers that studied home debris and debris at Briarwood Elementary after the May 20 tornado.
Improved home construction can enhance survivability in a tornado and reduce property damage, Ramseyer said.
Changes approved include hurricane clips at every rafter connection, continuous wall sheathing on exterior walls, and a wind-rated garage door – one of the most expensive of the items.
Many of the other recommendations are small details in the frame’s construction.
“A home is deconstructed by a tornado, starting with the breaching of the garage door,” Ramseyer said.
“The uplift generated by the wind causes the roof to collapse until the pressure pulls the building apart. So these recommendations start with sturdier garage doors.”
Houses built according to the code will withstand winds up to 135 miles per hour, while houses under the old code are designed to withstand winds up to 90 miles per hour.
“And that’s not taking into consideration the garage doors, which are not built to withstand 90 mph winds,” Ramseyer said.
Haworth said the new standards will make building a home more expensive, but it also will raise their value.
Implementing the standards may make home prices rise by about $1 a square foot, or $1,500 to $2,500 more per home, Haworth said.
In general, the city’s homebuilders are on board with the changes, he said.
Councilman Terry Cavnar said approving the changes was the right thing to do.
“There will be more tornadoes. The May 20 tornado won’t be the last. We thought the 1999 tornado was it, and we were wrong,” he said.
Barbara Beaty Johnson told the council her family lost their home in the May 20 tornado, but a workshop that was built with hurricane ties at the rafters remained standing.
Hurricane ties at the rafters is among the newly adopted standards.
The new standards go into effect in 30 days.