By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The Moore City Council made history Monday night with the adoption of 11 recommendations by structural engineering experts for residential building codes. These code changes will make future new homes in Moore more likely to survive a tornado without unduly raising construction costs.
“These changes were discussed at a Moore builders meeting,” Community Development Director Elizabeth Jones said. “This is not intended to be a storm shelter/house. Residents should still take appropriate shelter when a tornado warning is issued.”
As adopted, the 11 suggestions were broken down to create 14 code amendments. The cost of the new code is only about $1 more per square foot, and Moore city leaders wanted to keep homes affordable.
Jones said staff is investigating a down payment assistance program that would be funded by the Community Development Block Grant program for first-time home buyers.
The code recommendations came from structural engineers Dr. Chris Ramseyer and Dr. Lisa Holiday, who were part of a National Science Foundation team that looked at tornado damage following the May 20 tornado.
“This is an added layer of protection for property and life,” Jones said. “It should not be considered the only protection for property and life.”
While homes have traditionally been rated for 90 miles per hour winds, garage doors were not required to be wind rated and created a weak spot that can lead to greater structural damage in severe weather. That is a key area addressed in the new code which requires that garage doors are wind rated.
Examination of the Wildflower addition built by Ideal Homes using high-quality building standards showed a broad range between a home sustaining EF-5 damage and one sustaining EF-2 damage.
“What you had in Wildflower was better construction that allowed it (the EF-2 damaged home) to stay intact,” Ramseyer said.
Wildflower homes were vacant and incorporated many of the factors that are included in the new upgraded building code. Under the new code, homes will be wind rated for 135 mph and more capable of surviving tornadoes, especially up to EF-3.
“The homebuilders are accepting this as a good thing,” said Marvin Haworth, Moore Home Builders Association. “We think this is going to improve the quality of homes in the Moore area. We feel like it is going to address the problems we have with tornadoes.”
This is believed to be the first building code in the U.S. that focuses on the impact of tornadoes on residential property.
Council member Scott Singer asked whether the homes built to this new code will help reduce insurance rates.
Haworth said he doesn’t have an answer to that, but Council member Jerry Cavner, who is in the insurance business, said in the long term it should help with rates and in the short term could help people continue to get insurance coverage.
“I think this is a very progressive thing for our community,” City Manager Steve Eddy said. “I do think we’re a leader in this regard and that other cities will follow us.”
The council also approved the acceptance of an additional $25.9 million in CDBG disaster recovery funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.