If you live in an area where hurricanes can happen, it makes sense to protect your metal building. Steel structures are designed to last for decades, and heavy storms with gale force winds can have a major impact—even if they just roll around once in a while.
Hurricanes Are Hard on Buildings
Sustained winds of 74+ miles per hour and wind gusts that can exceed 250 mph can do a lot of damage even to a sturdy structure. The windward wall of a steel building may be under more than 65 pounds of pressure per square foot from the air rushing against it. On the other three sides, the suction caused by lower air pressure can pull walls outward. Add in the rain, and there’s the potential for foundation damage, and corrosion. If a surge of water hits the building during flooding, the pressure on the walls is even more intense and can cause a collapse. The swirling winds are also able to lift away roofing materials.
Designing for Hurricane Zones
If you live in a city that has a high risk for tropical storms, your building design may need to include hurricane resistance from the outset when you get your permit. Homeowners’ Associations may have a similar requirement.
How can you design a building that can withstand the pressure?
- When possible, it’s best to locate the building away from the path of potential flooding.
- Having a strong foundation that won’t be destroyed by soil erosion from flood waters is important, as are strong internal supports.
- Specially coated, rust-resistant steel is ideal since standard galvanized steel may corrode under exposure to heavy, continuous rain. Look for a product that comes with a 30-year warranty.
- The architecture of the building also makes a big difference in how it handles high winds. For example, a hipped roof (one with four panels) tends to stand up better than a traditional gable roof with two flat slopes.
- In extreme cases, building a Quonset style structure with a domed profile can be the best way to go. This shape, like a cylinder half buried in the ground, doesn’t allow pressure to build up against a flat wall or roof panel.
What about Retrofitting?
Hurricane kits provide a relatively low-cost way to reinforce small steel structures such as sheds, garages, and workshops. A hurricane kit will typically include anchors and metal building straps and plates. The studs, trusses, and rafters are secured using these straps, adding strength to the internal structure. If the building has windows, these will also require protection such as storm shutters. Larger buildings may require more extensive and customized retrofitting.
What severe weather events may hit the location where you plan to erect a steel building? Talk to our engineers about what to consider in your design.