Economy of Masonry Tornado Shelter Design

Tornado shelter space has been required within the building code since the adoption of IBC 2015, and has been modified and enhanced within the new IBC 2021.  Since the recent code mandate, these shelter space requirements may still be new and unfamiliar to structural engineers.  Are you aware that masonry can be an affordable option to provide the code required shelter space for areas of the country where the tornado design wind speed exceeds 250mph?

In the January 2024 SEU session, Scott Walkowicz, PE, from Walkowicz Consulting Engineers, presented Tornado Shelter Design with Masonry.  Scott explained the IBC and ICC 500 tornado shelter design and construction mandate and requirements.  Scott also noted the impact of tornado sheltering on school and critical emergency operations projects.  He described shelter wall optimization using masonry and presented cost analyses from actual masonry shelter projects.   

Scott offered several case studies which reviewed the cost implications of code required tornado shelters, using masonry as a cost effective solution.  To hear Scott walk through the design and cost analysis of one case study of a school in southwest Illinois, watch this short four minute video:

As Scott noted, the premium to incorporate the shelter space was only 3% of the masonry package on this school structure.  As the size of the structure increases, the premium for shelter space will decrease.  Masonry shelters designed to meet the demand of tornado loads can be an economical option on large additions and new school structures, especially when masonry is already being used within the building design.

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