IBHS Certifies First-Ever FORTIFIED Commercial™-Hurricane Structures in U.S.

RICHBURG, S.C., Nov. 27, 2018 – After recently achieving a major milestone in resiliency to severe weather events by certifying its 10,000th FORTIFIED Home™ in the United States, the Richburg-based Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) has certified its first-ever FORTIFIED Commercial™-Hurricane structures in the U.S.

In Gulf Shores, Ala., The Lodge at Gulf State Park, A Hilton Hotel, and The Interpretive Center at Gulf State Park, have earned IBHS’ first-ever FORTIFIED Commercial–Hurricane Bronze Level. FORTIFIED Bronze construction strengthens a typical roof, enabling it to better withstand strong winds during hurricanes and tropical storms. The project was spearheaded by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

In Fairhope, Ala., the Colonial Inn Condominiums earned the first-ever Commercial–Hurricane Gold Level. FORTIFIED Commercial Gold creates a strong continuous load path, which ties the entire structure together – enabling it to better stand firm against extreme winds during hurricanes. It also includes onsite power backup for essential utilities. FORTIFIED Gold is the highest level of resiliency certification offered by IBHS.

The new Lodge Hilton Hotel is an environmentally-friendly coastal development which features 350 rooms and suites, as well as 40,000 square feet of meeting space in its convention center. The $140 million project was built to withstand hurricane-force winds and is positioned well above flood level to better protect it from storm surge. It replaces the original Lodge, which was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

The Interpretive Center at Gulf State Park, located on a pristine beach along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico, is a gateway to the 6,150-acre park and a hub of education and connection with nature. It features interactive exhibits that introduce visitors to the diverse ecosystems throughout the park.

“IBHS worked closely with state and local leaders, as well as the project’s developers, on ensuring these new structures at Gulf State Park were built to incorporate specially designed FORTIFIED Commercial standards and best building practices so they are more resilient from the risks of property damage caused by hurricanes and other wind-driven severe weather events,” said Chuck Miccolis, IBHS vice president of commercial lines.

“We are proud that two of Gulf State Park’s new enhancements, the Interpretive Center and The Lodge, are the first buildings in the world to receive designations as FORTIFIED Commercial structures,” said Chris Blankenship, commissioner, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “These designations represent the park’s commitment to be an international benchmark of environmental and economic sustainability through responsible design and construction. These beautiful facilities go beyond basic building code requirements to ensure that it will welcome and educate visitors to Alabama’s Gulf Coast for years to come.”

The Colonial Inn Condominiums were built on the site of the early 20th century Colonial Inn Hotel overlooking picturesque Mobile Bay.

“IBHS worked closely with the locally-based developers of the Colonial Inn Condominiums to incorporate specially designed FORTIFIED Commercial standards and best building practices to ensure this residential complex can better mitigate the risks of property damage caused by hurricanes and other wind-driven weather events that impact coastal communities,” Miccolis said.

“The concept for this project began more than decade ago, but our plans were interrupted by hurricanes Ivan and Katrina,” said Fairhope resident Carlton Niemeyer, who spearheaded development of the project along with native Fairhopians Ed and Wes Overton. The Overton brothers literally grew up at the Colonial Inn that their parents managed until 1992, when the majestic seaside hotel was destroyed by a fire.

“Our initial plans were to use wood frame construction for all of the condo’s buildings, but high insurance premiums and scarce and expensive building materials sent us in another direction,” Niemeyer said. “After evaluating all our options, it became obvious to us that based on insurance savings, as well as cost and time to complete the basic structure, that insulating concrete form (ICF) and FORTIFIED construction was our best choice for the condominiums. We also decided to pursue IBHS’ FORTIFIED Gold level certification, ensuring the buildings met the highest standards for resiliency.”

The project consists of five units, each containing approximately 2,500 square feet of living space and a two-car garage. In total, there are three buildings on the site. Buildings one (four residential units) and two (one unit) are two-story ICF FORTIFIED construction. Building three is single-story, frame construction and only contains garages.

The Colonial Inn Condominium’s development team are all Fairhope-based businesses. This includes Clay Adams, of Walcott Adams Verneuille Architects, who developed the architectural plans; Martin Pitts, of J. Martin Pitts PE LLC, who created the structural plans; and Matt Hammond, of Hammond Construction LLC, who was the project’s general contractor.

“We are honored to be the first project in the U.S. to achieve the FORTIFIED Commercial – Gold designation and it has been without a doubt the best decision we could have made,” Niemeyer said.

Following more than 20 years of scientific research and real-world testing, IBHS developed a set of building guidelines and standards designed to provide additional protection from extreme weather events such as hurricane-force winds, rain and hail. The standards, known as FORTIFIED, have proven to be an effective and cost-efficient method for mitigating avoidable property casualty losses. This includes extensive testing at the IBHS Research Center in Richburg.

“Over the past five years, IBHS has approved more than 7,000 FORTIFIED Homes in Alabama, which leads the nation in FORTIFIED residential construction,” Miccolis said. “With the Gulf State Park and Colonial Inn Condominiums projects, we have now established how commercial structures can also be built stronger to withstand severe weather events.” FORTIFIED Homes have been built new, or retrofitted with FORTIFIED construction standards, in numerous coastal Carolina communities.

Miccolis concluded, “While no structure is fully immune to nature’s most extreme weather, IBHS research continues to show that mitigation and strong building codes are the best ways to prepare communities for natural disasters.”

FORTIFIED Commercial is a voluntary, superior construction standard and designation program designed by IBHS to make new commercial buildings stronger against severe weather, including hurricanes and high winds/high winds and hail. FORTIFIED Commercial employs an incremental approach with three levels of designations available—Bronze, Silver and Gold—so design professionals can work with building owners and developers to choose a desired level of protection that best suits their budgets and resilience goals. To learn more about FORTIFIED Commercial, please visit https://disastersafety.org/fortified/commercial/. To learn more about IBHS and its research findings, please visit www.disastersafety.org.

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