10 tips for designing hurricane-resistant distribution facilities - Refrigerated & Frozen Foods Magazine

By Jeremy Klysen

Distribution centers play a critical role in ensuring that the public has access to food in the immediate aftermath of a major storm, and in the weeks of rescue and recovery that follow. Knowing this, many food distributors keep between 2-4 weeks of extra stock.

But, what happens if the distribution center itself is in the path of destruction? How can designers and owners work together to ensure that this critical link in the logistics chain stays intact and performs?

These tips will help distribution-center owners understand and respond to the design challenges associated with severe weather.

1. Verify footings can resist wind uplift loads.
Foundation footers are the first building element that contacts the soil, spreading the weight of the structure across a large footprint. For distribution facilities in most parts of the country, footings are sized for gravity loads due to building weight and snow loads. In high-wind regions, a footing designed for gravity loads may be inadequate to resist wind uplift loads.

Increasing footing sizes and/or burying them deeper within the subgrade provides sufficient weight to overcome the high uplift forces a hurricane can generate. Other measures used to resist wind uplift and overturning loads include using larger, longer column anchor bolts and strengthening anchors used for walls, mechanical, refrigeration and electrical equipment.

2. Design the structure and connection detailing for lateral hurricane wind forces.
The high lateral wind loads associated with hurricane regions require close attention to the design of lateral load-resisting systems, including x-braces, moment frames, roof and floor deck diaphragms and shear walls. Properly anchoring exterior walls to structural framing is an area of special concern due to the high pressure and suction forces that occur, particularly at building edges and corners.

3. Improve the roofing system to handle uplift loads.
Like an airplane wing, a roof generates lift when wind blows across it. During a hurricane, this creates uplift on the roofing membrane, causing it to balloon upward and allowing water into the building.

While there is no such thing as a hurricane-proof roof, there are ways to improve the roofing system’s ability to handle wind uplift. High-performance fastening systems are capable of keeping panels, insulation and roofing pinned to the building during wind events.

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