Local News

Hurricane Expert Says Downgrading Construction Standards Unwise

Posted June 14, 2001

— Tropical Storm Allison has caused some serious problems across much of the country without even reaching hurricane strength. As North Carolinians have re-learned in recent years, hurricanes can cause huge damage.

In spite of this, the North Carolina Building Code Council will not be requiring shutters or break-resistant glass for coastal residents, because the Council voted 12-3 Wednesday against strengthening the rules.

The decision makes windows the weakest link in a hurricane, because the rules adopted in 1996 following Hurricane Fran require builders to better anchor roofs. But Bob Sheets, the former director of the National Hurricane Center, says more needs to be done now.

"It's either act or react, and what I'm hoping is we'll act now to prevent that loss in the future," Sheets says.

Sheets has watched hundreds of storms cause unbelievable damage, most notably Hurricane Andrew.

Sheets was in Raleigh Wednesday testifying before the council. He believes homebuilders are fighting the tougher standards because they do not want housing prices to rise.

"I think to a great degree the builders are afraid of the new technology (and would prefer to) just do it the way we've always done it, not using the science out there today."

The technology is 1 percent to 2 percent more expensive, but Sheets believes it will keep a new house and those inside safer than ever.

"Spread that over 30 years and it's the cost of a Burger King once a month to protect them," he says.

Several members of the Building Code Council suggested that insurers could offer rate discounts to homeowners who choose to strengthen their windows against flying debris from a storm.

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