It is springtime once again in the Texas Panhandle and for us, the strongest indicator of spring is not soft breezes, rain, and blooming flowers. It is the high, strong winds that sweep over the plains, blowing us around each time we step outside. Amarillo has been named the windiest city in America once again by the Weather Channel. With an average wind speed of 13.6 mph and a record wind speed of 84 mph, it makes you wonder why we choose to live in such a place. The windiest month of the year in Amarillo is April, making this a great time to talk about the importance of a building’s structural integrity when it comes to wind.
If you look at a map of the United States Wind Zones, you will see that there are certain regions of the U.S. that are susceptible to stronger winds. Because of this, there are different exposure ratings for the various regions. When building your steel structure, your engineer must take into account which exposure rating you fall into. This will ensure that your building is strong enough for the location in which it is built. The exposure ratings are:
- Exposure B: Urban and suburban or wooded areas with buildings placed close together.
- Exposure C: Open, rural areas with scattered buildings that are less than 30 feet fall. It includes countrysides and shorelines.
- Exposure D: Flat expanses of land with no obstructions a.k.a rural West Texas.
So depending on where you live, you will have different needs when it comes to withstanding wind. If you live in the Texas Panhandle, you should hire a steel building contractor that has experience building in the area. If you choose someone local, your builder will know what it takes to create a steel structure that can last for over 50 years in high winds.
Steel and Wind
One of the biggest advantages of a steel building is its ability to withstand strong winds - both during extreme weather conditions and during the every day wear and tear of high winds. Since steel buildings are cost effective, they are great for almost any purpose - from commercial buildings to churches and from retail establishments to gymnasiums. When compared to wooden framed buildings, steel outperforms. This is because wooden frames can literally be lifted from their foundations whereas steel studs are bolted to the foundation using stronger j-bolts buried in the cement.
There are a few different options when choosing a steel building if you want to maximize its wind resistance.
- Rigid frame: Also known as I-Beam, these structures are typically built for commercial and industrial use. When built with a shallow roof, I-Beam steel buildings can withstand extremely high winds.
- Open web truss: Typically built in residential areas, these buildings have a heavy weight that contributes to their strength, making them durable in windy conditions.
- Quonset hut: This type of building looks like a tin can cut in half lengthwise and set on the ground. It’s like an arch. Sometimes, the two ends are closed off and sometimes, they aren’t. Because of their ached structure, they can withstand even hurricane force winds. You will see this type of building a lot around rural Amarillo, Texas.
Over the years as more hurricanes, tornadoes, and strong winds have damaged buildings in the United States, engineers have developed new ways to make buildings stronger. For example, it has been noted that the weakest point of a building are the junctures of walls and edges of the roof. Today’s steel buildings now provide extra reinforcement in these areas, making them stronger than ever. Some steel buildings can resist winds of up to 170 mph.
Getting a Steel Building
When purchasing a new steel building, you will have the strongest, most durable structure if you work with a steel building company that has a good track record. At Panhandle Steel Buildings, we have been building steel and other types of structures for over 60 years. Our buildings have been proven to be long lasting, even with the constant Amarillo winds blowing into them.
If you want a building that will outlast high winds, fires, tornadoes, and everything else the Texas Panhandle can throw at it, contact us.