“We have seen from this (May 20, 2013) tornado progressive construction techniques that can survive strong winds,” Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis said in a statement. “We can learn from this devastating event to build stronger homes and neighborhoods across the United States — and it starts in Moore.”
The effort is the result of more than a decade’s worth of research by Chris Ramseyer and Lisa Holliday, who were part of the National Science Foundation’s Rapid Response team that evaluated structural damage.
Ramseyer is director of the Fears Structural Engineering Laboratory at the University of Oklahoma and led the research effort.
His research was the basis for the measure in Moore.
Haworth, owner of Marvin Haworth Homes Inc. and past president of the Moore Home Builders Association, was on a committee of community leaders, homebuilders and researchers determining how to build homes that stand a better chance when they are in the direct path or the periphery of a tornado.
“In this last one, it went through about every addition where I have built,” he said, referring to the EF-5 tornado that tore through Moore and destroyed large swaths of the city on May 20 last year.
Haworth said it starts with reinforcing garage doors because a tornado first begins to warp the garage door on a home, and things get worse from there.
“It takes out the garage door,” he said. “Then a tornado deconstructs the house; it takes it apart a piece at a time.”
Homes built after April 17 will include requirements that will help them withstand winds up to 135 miles per hour.
Ramseyer said after working with builders and contractors in Moore over the past decade, he has seen firsthand the benefits of implementing more stringent building measures in home construction. While very little will remain in the path of an EF-5, the homes will be able to withstand smaller tornadoes.
“We have photos that show two houses with EF-2 damage 69 feet away from a house where the slab was swept clean. Both houses were built with the same construction techniques,” Ramseyer said. “This points out that we should be able to narrow the damage zone for an EF-5 tornado significantly, allowing more people to survive and, consequently, less overall destruction.”
While Haworth has not had his own home destroyed by a tornado — his house was about a mile and a half from the path of the tornado — he said the improved building measures are necessary, just as homes in hurricane and earthquake-prone areas often must include features to withstand those natural disasters.
Despite the added work and cost, he said the homebuilders association wants to build better homes.
“We were involved so we could have input in what was being proposed,” he said. “We, as homebuilders, thought that was a reasonable goal to try to obtain.”