“After Wilma, everyone looked and wondered why all that glass fell over Biscayne [Boulevard] and Collins Avenue,’’ said Coastal president Whiteman. “They found out a lot of roofs have gravel and a lot of roof debris became flying missiles.’’
When the older buildings were repaired after Wilma, some owners fought building officials and won the right to rebuild to the old standards instead of the costlier new ones, said Charles Danger, Miami-Dade county’s building chief. Others opted to go with the new, tougher ones that took effect after Hurricane Andrew and were upgraded several times since.
“Basically some of these buildings were put back the same way and they are going to fail the same way. Some owners didn’t do anything different. They followed the old code because they were allowed to,’’ said Danger. “Some used the old material, but attached it better. Others put it according to the new code. If we ever get hit, we’ll see who was smart and who wasn’t.
“We’re better off now than we were before, but I’m still concerned about buildings that were revamped not to meet the new code,’’ Danger said.
At least one Miami high-rise, 1450 Brickell, completed in 2010, was built to even tougher standards than the latest code requires.
Impact-resistant glass that is strong enough to endure a 9-pound, six-foot-long, 2x4 piece of lumber fired end on at 34 miles an hour is required for windows up to 30-feet above ground. The idea is that most flying debris originates from ground level.
Above that, builders can use small-missile protection – impact glass that can survive test strikes by steel ball bearings traveling 50 miles per hour followed by wind tests.
The building at 1450 Brickell uses the stronger glass bottom to top.
“We have the whole building cladded with what is required to the first 30 feet,’’ said Alan Ojeda, president and CEO of Rilea Group, the developer of tower, who also maintains his office there.
Another extra: In addition to the required back-up generator to provide electricity for elevators and emergency lighting, the building has a second generator to keep air conditioning and full power if the regular service is cut off.
“We have a second generator with 80 tons of diesel that could run full time for about a week,’’ said Ojeda.
“The stronger glass prevents an implosion of the glass,’’ he said. “We have tenants who are in 24-hour mode, dealing with Hong Kong, Europe, the West Coast. They cannot afford to be without power.’’