Can storm damage be minimized with better building standards? Insurance companies and homeowners

By: Brian Hval

Why are US houses in hurricane risk areas not built to withstand them? I understand the argument about using local resources (timber vs brick) but why are do building codes not insist on stronger structures that can withstand strong winds?

But codes do insist! Engineers constantly evaluate the need for building stronger and safer structures to resist hurricanes and other extreme wind events. But these structures also need to be economically practical.

Past experience forms the foundation of all building codes. There are mandatory requirements for residential construction permits (and associated framing inspections). But codes change with time as more severe weather occurs or better construction methods evolve. A lot of lessons were learned from Hurricanes Andrew and more recently Maria. And building requirements updated accordingly!

Jurisdictions have found that for a small percent increase in cost, homes can easily be made stronger. They are more likely to survive high wind events with little or no damage:

  1. Wind extremes such as hurricanes

  2. Earthquakes

  3. Fires such as wildfires

The insurance industry has found small inexpensive changes in design details can greatly strengthen building structures. Stronger homes are more damage resistant. Less damage means smaller claims. Lower claims mean lower premiums. A big cost-benefit to the homeowner that quickly pays for the small cost of improving the structure.

Some examples:

  1. Anchor bolts - spaced evenly around the house perimeter. These tie a wood frame securely to a concrete foundation.

  2. Hurricane clips -