October 21, 2016

(Re)Building for Hurricanes and Other Natural Disasters: Part 1

Photo of micropiles at Rivers Education Center

627 micropiles (over 10 miles in total length) were installed to strengthen Rivers Education Center’s existing building foundation.

As our state continues work to clean up and rebuild after Hurricane Matthew, we’ve breathed a collective sigh of relief that the damage wasn’t worse. Much of the forecasting focused on high winds paired with the Lowcountry’s notorious flooding.

What Davis & Floyd has found in over a half-century of working across South Carolina is that proper preparation and rehabilitation of structures go a long way to preventing loss of life and property in a natural disaster. Two projects that illustrate this are our work on the Rivers Education Center and barracks at The Citadel.

We’ve written before about the Rivers Education Center’s stability for earthquakes. Those same precautions and more protect the building and our students from hurricane-related dangers.

The original 2-story unreinforced brick masonry school building was built in 1938 and considered unsafe for continued use in 2009. Davis & Floyd designed the restoration to meet all current codes for hurricane and seismic resistance as a school facility, meaning that the wood roof structure was strengthened and properly attached with over 3,000 hurricane/seismic ties and anchors. Floors were braced into the supporting walls and walls were reinforced with shotcrete on the interior faces. Stairwells also were reinforced. The whole building foundation was supported with micropiles for added stability. The building’s restored windows are energy-efficient and hurricane impact resistant. The school is now being utilized by two groups – the Charter School for Math and Science and the Lowcountry Tech Academy.

Across town, we also worked on replacement dormitories for The Citadel campus over a period of several years. The unique shape and style of the barracks buildings with central open quadrangles and covered walkways made the hurricane and seismic/earthquake designs more challenging. Davis & Floyd performed a detailed initial architectural and engineering study of the existing 4-story unreinforced masonry buildings to determine the renovations required to bring them up to code. The study revealed that it was more economical and safer to replace the four barracks with new structures, designed for full code compliance.

The new buildings are constructed entirely of concrete, making them some of the strongest structures in the Lowcountry in the face of hurricane or seismic threats. The new windows are impact resistant, while maintaining the original unique appearance.

With improvements like these and foresight on new projects, proper engineering can help South Carolina citizens stay safe in the face of a storm. We’re glad to be a part of the solution.

Part 2 will deal with best practices and more on flooding and drainage systems.