We’re not in Kansas anymore: standards for buildings in tornado country


By: Kyle Virgin

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently released its draft version of the 2022 edition of its building standards and, for the first time, the standards may very well include guidance on the design of facilities, such as schools and hospitals, to withstand tornadoes.  Similar natural disasters, e.g. hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, have long been included in the building standards, but tornadoes have been excluded due to the common misconception that they are simply too powerful and rare to warrant specific design standards.

The impetus for this change is research conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (“NIST”) which found that more than 70% of the total damage caused by an EF5 tornado in Missouri stemmed from lower wind speeds farther away from the center of the storm.  These findings support the position that design standards should be implemented for average strength tornadoes, much like the standards already in place for hurricanes and earthquakes.

If these new standards set forth by the 2022 edition of the ASCE 7 are adopted by model building codes and/or state and local building codes, design professionals, especially those located in areas routinely dealing with tornadoes, should take notice and review the draft standards which can be accessed from the ASCE website –

For more information, please contact Kyle Virgin at