Are hurricane straps the answer when Mother Nature strikes
It's a small metal bracket, but experts say hurricane straps could help prevent catastrophic damage like the devastation caused in mid-July by an EF-2 tornado that hit the south end of Barrie.
"The clips themselves have been tested to help withstand wind uplift for tornadoes that have an EF-2 rating," says Dufferin County chief building official Greg MacNaughtan.
In 2017, Dufferin County teamed up with the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction to create a Hurricane Clip Rebate Program.
With 16,377 clips installed to date, it's the first of its kind in the country.
"We've had a number of tornadoes over the years, some more severe than others," MacNaughtan says.
"The response has been very positive, and it is increasing over the years. We are seeing an increase in a response from our subdivision builders. We have builders right now in the town of Shelburne who are using the Hurricane clip."
It's one measure experts and industry leaders are asking for in the push to strengthen Ontario's building code.
"We do an awful lot for fire, and to me, this is just another life safety issue that should be included in our homes," says Doug Tarry, owner of Doug Tarry Homes.
The push comes after the tornado, with wind speeds clocking in around 210 kilometres per hour, damaged upwards of 200 homes with roughly 20 roofs ripped right off.
"We know if we can keep the roof on with that wind load, then the house is going to survive," Tarry says.
Tarry uses hurricane ties or six-inch screws to secure the roofs on his builds in St.Thomas, Ont., something he learned in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
"We are literally trying to make it doable and scaleable, fast and affordable. That's the entire point," Tarry says in a video by the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction.
Tarry says the cost to a builder all in is between $500 and $1,200, with the cost then passed on to the homeowner.
If he were in Dufferin County, for example, builders or homeowners would get an average of $300 to $400 back.
"Yes, it's got some cost to it, but it's a lot better than the house going to the landfill or someone getting injured," Tarry says.
Barrie Ward 6 councillor Natalie Harris took shelter in a home with her son during the tornado when the roof was torn right off.
"If we didn't make it to the basement, I don't know what would have happened," says Harris.
She plans to bring forward a motion to city council on Aug. 9 for changes to the province's building code.
"I'm also asking city council to potentially look at rebates and incentives for builders to move forward using hurricane straps, even if the building code isn't changed," Harris adds.
Now, it would be up to the province to implement any changes.
But Harris says she will be taking part in a virtual building code roundtable early next month with the province and key industry leaders.
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