Hurricane Ian, which swept through parts of Florida, is another reminder of the devastation severe weather events cause in human loss and property damage. While areas in the Sunshine State were decimated, others were spared or had minimal property damage due to environmentally sustainable construction, upgraded building codes, and overall hurricane preparedness.
For example, in a recent segment on “60 Minutes,” former football player turned developer Syd Kitson walks through Babcock Ranch, a fully environmentally sustainable, solar-powered town built several years ago about 12 miles from Fort Myers. While Fort Myers Beach is completely gone in the aftermath of Ian, Babcock Ranch had inconsequential damage.
There are currently 5,000 residents in Babcock Rock, with plans for 50,000 to move in eventually. When Hurricane Ian headed for Florida, Babcock Ranch was in its path. Ian, according to Kitson, sat over the eastern part of Babcock Ranch for about eight to 10 hours, with winds of more than 150 mph and whitecaps on the lake. The only damage from Ian was a few downed trees and some missing roof shingles. It took about a day to repair. No one lost power with the town’s 700,000 solar panels in place.
Babcock Ranch was designed with Florida’s ecosystem in mind. It was built 25 to 30 feet above sea level to avoid storm surges, and all electrical lines are buried.
Strong Building Codes
Punta Gorda, decimated in 2004 after Hurricane Charley made landfall, rebuilt its homes and buildings with modernized building codes. The new codes include stricter requirements for “structural load continuity.” Requirements include that a roof be well connected to walls, walls be well connected to the structure’s foundation, and impact-resistant windows and hurricane shutters be used. While Ian hit Punta Gorda with torrential rains and winds over 130 miles per hour, this time around, its homes and buildings remained largely intact with minimal damage to their exteriors.
Modern building codes throughout the years have repeatedly made a difference in how buildings fare in severe weather. An article in the Insurance Journal features a graphic of 18 homes built before 1981 created by a State University of New York professor. A storm destroyed all of them; however, one house, built in 2020, appears to be almost unscathed. The home is elevated above the storm surge level, and the roof looks undamaged.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Buildings under construction in the path of a hurricane are vulnerable to devastating property damage. You have incomplete or only temporarily supported structures, unsecured building envelopes, loose materials and debris, and construction equipment that can be destroyed. Water can enter the structure through damaged windows, doors, roofs, and building openings. Wind loads can cause the collapse of partially secured walls, shored floors, and under-construction structures. Storm surges can cause flood damage to the foundation and retaining wall.
Hurricane preparedness is necessary to minimize the impact of a severe weather event. Following are some of the steps contractors/property developers should take:
- Have someone in charge of executing the plan.
- Listen to the NOAA Weather Radio for weather events.
- Know the difference between a hurricane watch, issued within 48 hours of a threat, and a hurricane warning, which anticipates a hurricane within 36 hours.
During a Hurricane Watch
- During a hurricane watch, prepare to act, including readying everyone working on the jobsite for evacuation in the event a warning is issued. Make sure vehicles are gassed up.
- Adequately protect the building against the elements. Properly board up windows and doors.
- Install measures to minimize water damage in the building, including the use of sandbags.
- Make sure the storage of building materials is adequate. Ensure tie-downs, plywood, banding material, blocking, anchors, and other necessary protective supplies are available and organized.
- Move any uninstalled materials to a secure location.
- Stop all material deliveries.
- Remove scaffolding if possible.
- Make sure construction trailers and shipping containers/storage boxes are adequately anchored and tied down.
- Remove loose jobsite materials and debris that could become projectiles.
- Remove or safely store all hazardous materials.
- Shut down the gas line.
- De-energize power and unplug all electrical equipment.
Our Coastal Builder’s Risk Program
Of course, property under construction must be insured properly. Distinguished’s Coastal Builder’s Risk program for coastal residential (single-family homes and multi-family units) and light commercial properties under construction is available in the coastal areas of Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia, and commercial-only properties in Texas.
Coverage is available for new construction, remodelers, and improvements-only projects and is backed by an A-rated carrier. There are TIV limits of up to $20 million available. The program covers all risks and includes insurance against theft and vandalism. Additional coverages are available, such as debris removal, pollutant cleanup and removal, sewer and drain backup, and others.
About Distinguished Programs
Distinguished Programs is a leading national insurance Program Manager providing specialized insurance programs to brokers and agents with specific expertise in Real Estate, Community Associations, Hotels, and Restaurants. Property and liability products are distributed through a national network of agents and brokers. Serving the same core markets and partnering with the most stable and reputable carriers, Distinguished Programs’ high-limit umbrella programs remain the clear choice in its areas of specialty for superior coverage, competitive pricing, and attentive service. Through thoughtful innovation, stemming back to 1995, Distinguished Programs fosters growth and opportunities for its brokers, carriers, and employees.