Hurricanes are some of the most powerful and destructive weather events anyone can experience. The sheer power and force of hurricanes can create devastating damage to structures if they aren’t built with the highest quality materials and precision.

The role of a structural forensic engineer is to analyze damage to structures caused by a hurricane. With this analysis, they can get a better picture of how buildings need to be constructed to protect them from these major events in the future. It’s not impossible for a structure to survive a hurricane with minimal damage, but there are key factors that must be present if there is any chance.

Building Exteriors Are The First Lines of Defense

Without a solid building exterior, a hurricane will rip right through a building. When a forensic investigation occurs following a hurricane, most engineers find that the building was constructed using poor design or materials. Since the building exterior is the first line of defense, proper materials like concrete and masonry, stucco and strong metal cladding are necessary to protect a building. If a building exterior fails, the chances of a structure surviving are minimal.

What Happens If A Building Exterior Fails

A building’s exterior, or sometimes called building envelope, not only has to be constructed with precision and detail, but it also has to be resistant to flying debris during a hurricane. Many forensic engineering studies indicate when a building façade is compromised, the pressure from the winds and rain from a hurricane will rip through and then destroy the interior of the building. Once this occurs, some minor damage can turn into a total loss quickly.

Framing and Foundation

Without a solid foundation and proper frame construction, many homes don’t stand a chance in hurricanes. A lot of emphasis gets put on a building’s exterior, and for good reason, but the foundation and framing also play a large role in whether structures survive a hurricane or not. Many forensic investigations begin with an analysis of the structure’s foundation after a hurricane. If there is damage to the foundation or frame, chances are there will be other significant damage to analyze on the building as well.

Minor Missed Details Lead To Major Disasters

When a structural forensic engineer analyzes hurricane damage, the reasons why a building survived is always clear. Even the minor details like the fasteners used to secure doors, metal or any other material are critical for increasing the chances of a structure surviving the force of a hurricane. These details may seem like they have minimal importance during the construction of a building, but a forensic investigation following hurricane damage will clearly expose the flaws and strengths.

At BE Structural our forensic structural engineers have analyzed hundreds of damaged structures as a result of a hurricane making landfall. We know exactly why a structure survived, and why some structures are destroyed completely. Be sure to contact us to learn more about how buildings can survive hurricanes, especially if you live in a hurricane zone.