“There are no more automatic signoffs from engineers who have never even seen the job,’’ Lampert said.
There are also differences in the nuts and bolts of the code: Every piece of what engineers call the “building envelope” has to be impact resistant, not just windows and doors but walls and roofs.
Roofing felt, or tar paper, is twice the weight required elsewhere. Plywood roof decking must be 5/8 of an inch thick at minimum, compared to a 1/2 inch on a home in Naples.
“It doesn’t sound like much, that additional 1/8 of an inch, but it make a big, big difference in resistance to uplift,’’ Alvarez said.
Still, some engineers see plenty of room for improvement.
The shattering of
Danger believes impact standards for high-rise windows, which shattered in buildings in downtown Fort Lauderdale and Miami during 2005’s Hurricane Wilma, remain highly suspect. Efforts to force owners to install upgraded glass were shot down, he said, and many buildings installed the same stuff that failed, though with stronger attachments.
“It’s crazy to have buildings on Brickell Avenue that, glazing-wise, are still subject to the same problems,’’ he said.
Builders and designers also have been slow to embrace promising new technologies, such as foams sprayed on the undersides of roofs to bond planks and seal out water.
Alvarez said that poured concrete roofs, which strengthen a home’s weakest point, are common in places like Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula but a rarity in South Florida.
If another major hurricane hits South Florida, Danger is hopeful owners of most post-Andrew homes would still have roofs. Homes likely wouldn’t escape unscathed, he said, but “my expectation is that you are still going to have a place to stay, to keep on going with your life.’’
Engineers and disaster experts caution that the tougher codes shouldn’t give anyone a false sense of security. Most homes in South Florida, for one thing, went up before Andrew. A major storm will still be a major disaster.
“We’re a hell of a lot smarter about what we build but the issue for South Florida is increased exposure since 1992,’’ said Richard Olson, director of extreme event research at FIU. “The number of people, the number of families, the amount of economic assets that are exposed to hurricane and storm surge has increased dramatically.
“I stand up in public all the time and say we’re going to get our asses kicked,’’ Olson said. “They say, ‘You’re trying to scare me.’ I say, ‘Well, yeah.’”
At that home in Northwest Miami, contractor Robinson Guzman said he builds with Andrew in mind. Guzman wasn’t in the home-building business when Andrew hit but saw the devastation firsthand during the clean-up — and it showed during a roof inspection.
“No shiners,’’ noted Pedro Estopiñan, the county’s roofing section supervisor, as he looked up at the decking. Those would be nails that missed trusses. “It’s basically over-code.’’
Guzman nailed roof decking every four inches, instead of the required six. He bought double wrapped hurricane straps instead of single.
He added four heavy steel “truss girders,’’ bolted through the concrete tie-beam, to anchor trusses at key pressure points.
All in all, he estimated he’ll put an extra $1,000 in code-plus material in a 1,300-square-foot home he said he’d already sold for $145,000.
“It’s actually a little insurance for me,’’ he said. “I know the owners are not going to have problems and that means I’m not going to have problems.’’