Stricter Building Codes Save Florida from Hurricane Irma
Almost a year later, after Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida, it’s business as usual for commercial real estate brokers on the ground.
“We had downed trees and inconvenient electrical outages, but other than some roof damage, it turned out to be pretty much a non-event on the commercial side,” says John Dunphy, senior vice president in the Tampa office of real estate services firm JLL. “We escaped the worst of it, but the farther you get into Polk County and in Orlando and Jacksonville the story may be different.”
Despite major flooding near coastal areas of Miami, most businesses reopened within a couple days. However, some couldn’t help but notice the extent of water damage done to buildings causing faulty electrical components. The notion was there: Should the city of Miami take into account post-Andrew building code restrictions?
According to NREI, “The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, which is tracking insurance claim data, reported 514,840 claims for residential property damage and 25,214 claims from commercial property owners, with estimated insured losses as of Sept. 27, at nearly $3.9 billion. Florida Legislature estimated overall initial damage at $25 billion to $40 billion.”
Office buildings proved fairly resilient against the storm. CBRE reported that about one-third of the 240 office buildings it manages throughout the state were affected by electrical outages, but the buildings reopened when power was restored. Less than 5 percent of the properties sustained water and wind damage. Most of the damage involved fallen trees, landscaping issues and minor leaks from roofs and around windows.
One takeaway is that Irma’s effect in longevity in terms of how long it would take to recuperate, falls short compared to that of Hurricane Andrew and its victims. Setting, maintaining, and improving high building code standards gives way to prevention in the future. For example, recently opened and local business’, like Mama Tried in Downtown Miami, now have a fair shot in terms of sustaining their business property in the long run. With the assurance that construction companies and general contractors alike, need to maintain those standards, Mama Tried can scratch that off their “worry” list for the 2018 hurricane season.
After Hurricane Andrew, Florida enacted stricter building standards in 1992. The design enforcements are to ensure that buildings could withstand a Category 5 hurricane with winds of 175mph: The Florida building code is the accepted benchmark for hurricane protection nationally.
According to NREI, “When Irma hit Miami’s Brickell Central Business District, for example, a high tide exacerbated the storm surge, but upgraded building standards ensured complete drainage by the next day. Businesses in the area reopened within three days.”