Hurricane Season Here Again: Update on Rebuilding Efforts in U.S. Gulf Coast

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 18, 2009 – With the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June to November, upon us again, any one among 35 million Americans who live in regions most threatened by Atlantic hurricanes (or those who love them), is sharply attuned to being prepared for the worst. 

The North American steel industry, through both collective and individual company efforts, made a commitment to help rebuild the Gulf Coast region in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita “better and stronger” – and three and a half years later, positive results are being reported at a number of different levels. “While the rebuilding effort has taken longer then most people had hoped, the region has clearly made significant progress in building communities that are better able to survive another hurricane season, “ David Jeanes, president of the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI) said.

The Gulf Coast Steel Initiative (GCSI), a group funded by AISI member steel companies, helped support the rebuilding effort in the U.S. Gulf Coast region in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The group committed approximately $1 million in support the initiative to “rebuild stronger with steel” a region subject to severe storms. GCSI worked in support of the local communities, with building officials, contractors and insurance industry to improve the building codes, quality of construction and land use. It supported regional training programs to assist in developing the skilled labor required to install steel framed homes and residential roofing.

“After a comprehensive review of the needs throughout the region and a universal concern to rebuild it stronger than before, we recognized that our industry had a lot to offer that could impact the region for years to come,” David Jeanes, the organizer of GCSI, said. “Through our long-term investment in Market Development, we have established a number of steel-based solutions that can help to rebuild homes and the infrastructure of the region while also helping to fortify it against future storms.”

In support of the Gulf Coast Steel Initiative, SMDI focused its efforts on implementing long-term initiatives to help change future construction practices in this region, such as promoting higher standards and higher performance codes for all materials in the Gulf Coast region.  It initiated the development of the revised AISI Standard for Cold-Formed Steel Framing—Prescriptive Method for One and Two Family Dwellings, expanded to increase steel framing requirements for wind loads from 130 to 150 miles per hour. 

SMDI also helped expand the construction standards in the Fortified Home program to include design and installation for steel-framed structures.  This program is operated by the insurance industry’s Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) Builders Guide and rewards higher construction standards with the potential for discounts on homeowners insurance.  GCSI also worked with IBHS to offer building officials steel framing curriculum.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather service prediction center calls for 50 percent probability of a near-normal storm season in 2009.  Forecasters say there is a 70 percent chance of having nine to 14 named storms, of which four to seven could become hurricanes.

”Steel framing can be designed to resist damage by high winds associated with hurricanes, allowing the structure to stay intact,” said Mark Nowak president of Steel Framing Alliance (SFA). “Perhaps as important, steel framing is resistant to the damage inflicted by the Formosan termite in and around the Gulf region.”  In addition, steel framing does not contribute to the growth of mold and mildew. In the aftermath of a hurricane, flooding usually occurs, leaving homes susceptible to mold and mildew, which are known to pose health risks, especially to those with asthma and other respiratory ailments. Building with steel also helps preserve natural resources and creates less waste, because 100 percent of steel is recyclable and can be salvaged from the clean up debris.

“Steel roofing also provides significant advantages in high wind areas like the gulf region,” Tom Black, executive director of the Metal Roofing Alliance (MRA) said.  “Metal roofs are durable and can be designed to resist winds of up to 150 mph.” The MRA has worked closely with several community colleges in the region to train roofers on the proper installation practices.

“Building Back Bigger and Better” is a banner slogan in the Long Beach, Mississippi area (still posted on the city’s Web site)—which was devastated by hurricane Katrina in 2005.  This area provides a case in point on how steel solutions are helping with the rebuilding effort.  ArcelorMittal, through its foundation, contributed $1.75 million to Long Beach rebuilding efforts, which provided the necessary seed funding for an additional $20 million in capital improvement projects.  This program alone helped build a new Senior Citizen’s and Community Center with steel framing and roofing that is hurricane resistant, built to 2003 IBC for 140 mph wind loads.  ArcelorMittal also helped with the construction of a new fire department headquarters and new city library, among such projects.

When asked what construction material they would prefer when framing their house if living in an area prone to hurricanes, 75 percent of U.S. homeowners prefer steel as their material of choice. The national consumer survey, conducted by the global research firm Harris Interactive in 2008 for American Iron and Steel Institute, also found that 42 percent of consumers say that steel is the roofing material they would prefer if living in an area that could be affected by hurricanes. These findings indicate that consumers recognize the important role that steel plays in protecting their homes and families, especially in the face of a natural disaster such as a hurricane.  For more information on steel framing, go to www.steelframingalliance.com.  For more on metal roofing, go to www.metalroofing.com.

Supporting companies of GCSI include: 

  • AK Steel Corporation
  • ArcelorMittal Dofasco
  • ArcelorMittal USA
  • California Steel Industries, Inc
  • Nucor Corporation
  • Severstal North America
  • SSAB North America
  • Steel Dynamics
  • United States Steel Corporation
  • USS-POSCO Industries.

The Steel Market Development Institute, a business unit of AISI, oversees the industry's investment in advancing the case for steel in the marketplace as the preferred material of choice. AISI serves as the voice of the North American steel industry in the public policy arena and advances the case for steel in the marketplace as the preferred material of choice. AISI also plays a lead role in the development and application of new steels and steelmaking technology. AISI is comprised of 24 member companies, including integrated and electric furnace steelmakers, and 138 associate and affiliate members who are suppliers to or customers of the steel industry. AISI's member companies represent approximately 75 percent of both U.S. and North American steel capacity. For more information, visit www.smdisteel.org.  

Contact:
Debbie Bennett
Manager, Communications
Construction Market
Steel Market Development Institute
Tel: 202.452.7179