Industry experts have warned that building design may need to be rethought to take greater account of extreme weather after last week’s tornado in Birmingham.
The tornado, which hit Birmingham on Thursday, caused an estimated £40m of damage to buildings, leaving 20 structures needing demolition and a further 200 unstable. Surveyors from Birmingham council are working with insurance companies to assess the extent of the damage.
Andrew Allsop, an associate director of Arup, said that although the cost of making buildings tornado-proof was high, design codes could be adapted to reduce the risk of buildings suffering windborne missile damage or producing flying debris themselves during strong winds.
He said: “The impact of windborne missile damage is recognised in the USA, but the UK’s current design rules for buildings don’t address the fact that structures can turn into debris during strong winds, including tornadoes. Anything that can break in the wind can inflict further damage to people and property.”
Allsop said that Arup was likely to cover the issue in its response to the government’s forthcoming consultation on the Sustainable Buildings Code, alongside concerns over the impact of flooding. It is understood that researchers at Birmingham University are also looking at the effects of gusts produced during thunderstorms.
The Association of British Insurers is to make recommendations to the ODPM over protecting buildings from flooding and high winds, although this would not specifically include tornadoes.
A spokesperson said: “We will work with the government to insure safeguards are in place for such events. It is important that the government understands the significance of planning.”
The ABI spokesperson added that insurers would work with Birmingham council to ensure the rebuilding work could begin as soon as possible.