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March 17, 2014

Moore City council considers storm-resistant building code upgrades

NORMAN — Moore Strong may be more than just an inspiring slogan for recovery from the May 20 tornado if city leaders approve building code upgrades tonight.

The Moore City Council will consider 11 recommendations by structural engineering experts for residential building codes.

If adopted, those code changes could make new homes in Moore more likely to survive a tornado.

At the request of city leaders, Dr. Chris Ramseyer, University of Oklahoma engineering professor, presented findings and recommendations for consideration to the Moore City Council on Feb. 18. Tonight, those proposals are on the agenda for possible adoption into the city building code.

Ramseyer is the director of OU’s Fears Structural Engineering Laboratory, where structural theories are put to the test to gain real-life answers grounded in science. The city of Moore asked

Ramseyer to provide recommendations for a rational or scientific approach to high-wind design. Ramseyer specializes in structural design and teaches steel and concrete design classes to undergrads as well as graduate students at the university.

Currently, residential building codes in Oklahoma are based on the 2009 International Residential Code that requires homes to withstand 90 mile per hour winds with three-second gusts.

Ramseyer’s finding are based on International Building Code standards which are higher standards developed for commercial buildings rather than the IRC standards. Findings are also based on tests performed at the Fears lab. The 11 recommendations would make homes stronger and able to withstand an EF-3 tornado or winds up to 135 miles per hour.

Ramseyer was part of a National Science Foundation team that looked at tornado damage. As a structural engineer, Ramseyer and the team tried to answer the question, “How does a tornado interact with a house?”

The team was composed of five universities with 25 students and faculty participating, each with different specialties. The team found a neighborhood in south Oklahoma City that was hit by the May 20 tornado. That subdivision was new and all of the homes were unoccupied. Ramseyer said the houses were “robust structures.” The builder, Ideal Homes, is known for constructing homes with tornado safe elements.

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