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CCBP Storm shelter: Company supplies schools for weather protection

Storm shelter: Company supplies schools for weather protection

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Somewhere between 2015 and the next round of tornadoes, the Fort Worth City Council adopted new International Building Codes and a FEMA recommendation that that all new schools with 50 or more students and staff have a designated storm shelter.

To be specific, they voted in the new codes on December 6, but the resulting construction should provide safety in the line of winds up to 250 miles per hour. For those familiar with chasing storms, those gusts would qualify a twister as an EF-4 tornado. Seven students in Moore, Oklahoma were killed when a 210-mph EF-4 storm whipped through Plaza Towers Elementary on May 20, 2013. Luckily, class wasn’t in session a couple of months ago when an EF-3 slammed into Shields Elementary School in Red Oak. But, when future winds barrel across the plains and into newer construction, the safety provided will have a local touch.

Speed Fab-Crete, whose precast concrete manufacturing plant is based in Kennedale, is making sure that the structures necessary to withstand those winds will be available to contractors and architects designing the new storm shelters. If not the first, Speed Fab-Crete is one of the few precast concrete providers capable of creating the members to build the newly-mandated storm shelters. Upon learning of the 2015 IBC code, the design-build company with over 66 years in the general contracting and precast concrete business invested in the forms necessary to build the storm shelters.

They did so by purchasing the “double tee” casting forms from Hamilton Form Company, also based in the Fort Worth area. The precast roof double tee is a panel that connects and spans the walls of the storm shelters. Speed Fab-Crete double tees can be cast as thick as 44 inches as opposed to the more general 20 to 24 inch depth in other precast panels. Three storm shelters made with the Hamilton form-produced precast walls, are already in place in two Lancaster elementary schools via Speed Fab-Crete installation. Another in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma was built to house the school’s fine arts department, so the storm shelters are being designed with multiple purposes in mind. The structural precast walls may be internally insulated and sandwiched between two concrete panels, and can also have architectural finishes integrated.

Speed Fab-Crete services the states of Texas and Oklahoma, as well as Louisiana, and hopes to be a leader in future safety-focused projects, said Randy Landers, Speed Fab-Crete Director of Business Development.

“Nobody we know of has these double tee forms that conform to the new IBC codes and FEMA recommendations,” Landers said. “There may be one or two within the region that can produce them, but none that we’re aware of. We’re at the forefront of safety, which is exactly where we want to be.”

Some schools currently under construction have been grandfathered in, and multiple area school administrators have acknowledged that adoption of the new building codes will impact future construction costs. Still, Landers pointed out that implementing a functionality to the new storm shelter areas akin to what Broken Bow did with their shelter may help incorporate both form and function.

“There are a lot of ways to meet the new code requirements,” he said.

Many of the lives sheltered across Tornado Alley in the years to come, if not from the adoption of the new codes, will also have a local manufacturer to thank for their security.

Somewhere between 2015 and the next round of tornadoes, the Fort Worth City Council adopted new International Building Codes and a FEMA recommendation that that all new schools with 50 or more students and staff have a designated storm shelter.

To be specific, they voted in the new codes on December 6, but the resulting construction should provide safety in the line of winds up to 250 miles per hour. For those familiar with chasing storms, those gusts would qualify a twister as an EF-4 tornado. Seven students in Moore, Oklahoma were killed when a 210-mph EF-4 storm whipped through Plaza Towers Elementary on May 20, 2013. Luckily, class wasn’t in session a couple of months ago when an EF-3 slammed into Shields Elementary School in Red Oak. But, when future winds barrel across the plains and into newer construction, the safety provided will have a local touch.

“The 2015 International Building Code requires storm shelters in Group E Occupancies with an aggregate occupant load of 50 or more. Group E designates Pre-K thru 12 facilities,” said Ross Rivers, a principal at VLK Architects in Fort Worth. “The storm shelters must be designed so that the structural system and building envelope can withstand a 250 MPH wind speed. The shelters are also required to have ventilation and emergency lighting for a period of up to 2 hours for tornado shelters or 24 hours for hurricane shelters.

“They must be ADA compliant and designed to include toilet and hand-washing facilities. Some of the challenges now facing school districts include: addressing the additional costs associated with the storm shelter portion of the building; philosophical discussions to determine policies, operational impact, existing facility needs, parity across the district, safety management programs and long term implementation plans. Because this is a new requirement for educational facilities, the full design and financial impact will not be known for some time as the many school districts and governing authorities continue to develop individual interpretations, policies and regulations.”

Speed Fab-Crete, whose concrete yards are based in Kennedale, is making the support beams necessary to withstand those winds and making them available to contractors and architects designing the new storm shelters. If not the first, Speed Fab-Crete is one of the only precast concrete providers capable of creating the cross bars to build the newly-mandated storm shelters, according to the company. Upon learning of the 2015 IBC code, the design-build company with over 60 years in the general contracting business invested in the forms necessary to build the storm shelters.

They did so by purchasing the double tee casters from Hamilton Form Company, also based in the Fort Worth area. The pre-cast roof planks, molded from the Hamilton forms, are already in place in two Lancaster elementary schools via Speed Fab-Crete installation. Another in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma was built to house the schools fine arts department, so the storm shelters are being designed with multiple purposes in mind.

Speed Fab-Crete services the state of Texas and Oklahoma, as well as Louisiana, and hopes to be a leader in future safety-focused projects, said Randy Landers, Speed Fab-Crete Director of Business Development.

“Nobody we know of has these double tee forms that conform to the new IBC codes and FEMA recommendations,” Landers said. “There may be one or two within the region that can produce them, but none that we’re aware of. We’re at the forefront of safety, which is exactly where we want to be.”

Some of the schools currently under construction have been grandfathered in, and multiple area school administrators have acknowledged that adoption of the FEMA recommendation will impact future construction costs. Still, Landers pointed out that implementing a functionality to the new storm shelter areas akin to what Broken Bow did with their shelter may help incorporate both form and function.

“There are a lot of ways to meet the new code requirements,” he said.

Speed Fab-Crete

1150 East Kennedale Parkway

Kennedale 76060

817 478-1137

www.speedfabcrete.com

VLK Architects

2821 W 7th St.

Suite 300

Fort Worth 76107

817-633-1600

www.vlkarchitects.com


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