Community Safe Room Wins Top Honor Among Projects Constructed Under $5 Million
Highland Manor Community Safe Room received a 2016 Excellence in Wisconsin Structural Engineering Award, in the projects less than $5 million in construction costs category, from the Structural Engineers Association of Wisconsin (SEA–WI).
This project challenged R.A. Smith National’s structural engineers with finding a solution for the 450 residents of the Highland Manor Mobile Home Community in Madison, Wis., who lacked safe shelter during severe weather events, such as tornadoes. Working collaboratively with precast engineers at Spancrete, the team designed a safe room meeting strict standards that resist extreme wind pressures associated with a tornado event. The design team’s creativity and teamwork in overcoming significant design challenges resulted in the largest freestanding safe room in Wisconsin that serves as a model for future shelters and safe rooms.
"The project was a successful team effort from initial design through building construction. We credit this overall successful project to excellent working relationships, cooperation and communication among all team members,” said Kim Spoden, AIA, Assemblage Architects.
In the photo (courtesy SEA–WI): David Boldt, the project’s structural engineer, explained how this award-winning project grew to become the largest freestanding safe room in Wisconsin.
The Highland Manor Community Safe Room represents an innovative, forward-looking approach to preventing fatalities during severe weather events. In order to qualify for $1.2 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant funding, the building had to meet FEMA P-361 requirements. These design criteria are intended to provide a superior level of life safety protection against the extreme wind speeds and flying debris associated with tornados. Although FEMA’s guidelines are beyond what most engineers will need to consider for upcoming projects, the related International Code Council ICC-500 requirements may soon become mandatory in Wisconsin for certain types of common structures. This facility meets both ICC-500 and FEMA P-361 requirements, demonstrating it is possible to create a large-scale safe room in a cost-effective manner.
As a safe room, Highland Manor can hold up to 845 individuals. When not harboring community residents during severe weather, the facility functions as a park shelter and community meeting room, making it usable by residents throughout the year.
"It has allowed residents to get involved with their community by becoming volunteers on the safety team, giving many a sense of purpose in their community," said the Highland Manor Homeowners' Association.
Judging and Awards
A jury of SEA–WI professionals selected award recipients based on five general criteria, including: the structural design’s creativity; technical innovations used and their influence on the project’s design; the design’s ingenuity for efficient use of materials and labor; how unusual problems were solved by the design; and quality of execution. The Highland Manor project, led by a collaborative and forward-thinking design team, effectively fulfills each of these criteria.
SEA–WI presented the 2016 Excellence in Wisconsin Structural Engineering Awards during their fall technical conference held on Friday, November 4. Award winners made presentations highlighting the challenging aspects of their projects.
In the photo: Highland Manor residents gathered together at the grand opening of the Community Safe Room.