Residential Development on Historic Site Built to be Resilient from Extreme Winds
FAIRHOPE, Ala., Nov. 12, 2018 – While designing a condominium complex in coastal Alabama to become more resilient to the impacts of severe wind events, local developers have embraced the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s (IBHS) FORTIFIED Commercial™ construction standards. As a result, the new Colonial Inn Condominiums, built on the site of the early 20th century Colonial Inn Hotel overlooking picturesque Mobile Bay, has earned the first-ever FORTIFIED Commercial™–Hurricane Gold.
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 important utilities. It is the highest level of resiliency certification offered by IBHS.
“IBHS worked closely with the 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,” said Chuck Miccolis, vice president, commercial lines, IBHS.
“The concept for this project began more than decade ago, but our plans were interrupted by hurricanes Ivan and Katrina,” said Carlton Niemeyer, who developed 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.
“It is an honor 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.
“Over the past five years, IBHS has approved more than 7,000 FORTIFIED Homes™ in Alabama, which leads the nation in FORTIFIED construction,” Miccolis said. “With the Colonial Inn Condominiums project, in addition to the new Gulf State Park project in Gulf Shores, Ala., we have now established how commercial structures in Alabama can also be built stronger to withstand severe weather events.” FORTIFIED Commercial designations are currently available only in Alabama.
“While no structure is fully immune to nature’s most extreme weather, IBHS research continues to validate that mitigation and strong building codes are the best ways to prepare communities for natural disasters,” Miccolis concluded.