Canadian Underwriter

Barrie tornado gives boost to industry’s call for hurricane straps

February 7, 2022   by Greg Meckbach

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For years, the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction has advocated making hurricane straps, metal fittings that connect roof trusses to walls, mandatory in the Ontario Building code.

“We’ve been working for a number of years to try to get hurricane straps or hurricane clips included in the building code,” ICLR managing director Glenn McGillivray told Canadian Underwriter.

“The builders outlined a few problem areas with our code changes. And we had to get into some more research on that whole topic, and it kind of petered out there for a while,” he added.

However, last July’s tornado in Barrie and several nearby communities put hurricane straps higher on policymakers’ radar.

Days after the disaster, local councillor Natalie Harris said she would put forward a motion to have the City of Barrie propose amendments to the provincial building code to better protect buildings against severe winds.

“That has given the whole thing a new shot in the arm,” McGillivray said. “Barrie is going to advocate for that change and we might see other communities in Ontario pushing for it as well.”

Local media reports suggest the issue may soon get an airing but not everyone is on board.

The proposal to mandate hurricane straps has “gone through the formal [building code] change process at least two times that I am aware of,” said Paul De Berardis, director of building science and innovation for the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON).

“Generally, what has happened is when [hurricane straps have] gone in for a code change request…it was always found that generally, in Ontario, we have very few and far between of these extreme wind events where there is the need to withstand 100- to 150-km/h-plus winds like one would experience in a tornado,” said De Berardis.

Prior to last summer’s tornado strike, he noted the last major tornado to hit the city was in 1985.

That said, “many insurers call [mandating hurricane straps] a no-brainer,” said McGillivray. “In some respects, they are correct.”

Adding hurricane straps may not completely prevent damage but would help, McGillivray suggested.

“We are not trying to build a bunker here. We are not trying to build a home for an EF-4 or EF-5 tornado,” he added. “We are trying to build a home for the majority of tornadoes here in Ontario and that would be EF-0 to EF-2.”

Enforcement of existing codes “is obviously most important, especially for roof to top-floor connections and that is something we support,” said RESCON’S De Berardis.

After the July Barrie tornado, De Berardis read news reports indicating some roof trusses did not have the correct number of nails as mandated by the provincial building code.

“The only challenge is [that] where the trusses attach to the top plate is a very challenging point to inspect,” said De Berardis. “So that is something that you can either do while the framing is happening or [the inspector would] have to kind of get up into the roof and attic area before any insulation or sheathing or vapour barrier goes on.”

This article is excerpted from one the appeared in the November 2021 issue of Canadian Underwriter.

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