Tougher Building Codes for Some States Could be Expected as a Result of Katrina

It's too soon to say for certain, but some Hurricane Katrina damage estimates are saying the storm, which severely struck portions of Louisiana and Mississippi earlier this week, could very well be the most costly and destructive natural disaster to impact North America.

One possible reason the Louisiana and Mississippi endured such extreme damage could be the fact that states do not enforce building codes as stringently as other hurricane-prone areas do.

"Those states don't have the same codes as Florida," said Max Perilstein of Arch Aluminum and Glass. "Places in Florida that were struck during last year's hurricane season, which had hurricane-resistant products, held up well. Mississippi and Louisiana don't follow those same codes."

Mike Fischer, code consultant for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA), agreed.
"There is a huge difference in the building codes," he said. "There's not even a comparison." He explained that Florida has been the leader in hurricane codes, followed by Texas and the Carolinas.

"Part of the reason [for the complacency by Louisiana and Mississippi] is because they have not had a direct hit in years," said Fischer.

As a result of Hurricane Katrina, Fischer said Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are all likely to re-evaluate their building codes.

"Ironically, there was supposed to have been a meeting on August 31 for the State of Louisiana to look at its code requirements, as they are in the process of re-evaluating them." The meeting, of course, was postponed due to Katrina.
Much in the way Hurricane Andrew changed Florida and its codes, in all likeliness, Katrina will have a similar impact on the Gulf States.

"Yes, we'll see a change in the codes there," said Fischer. "Part of the process will be an evaluation of building performance, either at the state level or by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). There will also be industry involvement, as well."

Fischer, along with representatives from other building product industries, as part of the Institute for Building and Home Safety, will soon be traveling to the hurricane sites.

"We'll be evaluating the building [product] performance to see if codes were sufficient and if they were in compliance."
Until then, it is difficult to fully gauge the damages caused by Hurricane Katrina and how codes will change.

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