Did the quality of home-building contribute to the quantity of damaged houses in Barrie’s July 15 tornado?
Greg Kopp, lead researcher with Western University’s Northern Tornadoes Project, has suggested it could have been a factor.
“There were some houses with incorrectly fastened roofs and it was a strong tornado,” he said. “Tornado paths are not uniform, they are rated by the maximum damage caused, but is variable along the path. So, most of the tornado track has lower damage than the maximum.”
Kopp told BarrieToday he believes some of the homes lost their roofs in the tornado due to poor workmanship — citing insufficient nails holding roofs onto walls. He visited the south-end tornado site July 16.
Last week’s Barrie tornado was classified as EF2, with maximum wind speeds of 210 kilometres an hour. There were 70 damaged homes with outstanding unsafe orders as of yesterday, a week after the tornado struck, which means they are uninhabitable.
City of Barrie planning and building records, researched by city staff, show the three main home builders in the tornado-affected area were Zancor, Baywood and Pratt, and that these homes were built between 2004 and 2010.
Some of the most badly damaged homes were built by Pratt — five addresses on Majesty Boulevard and one on Monarchy Street, with some missing roofs.
“As far as I’m aware, all of our homes are built to (Ontario Building) Code and we stand behind our product,” Karen Pratt-Hansen, co-owner of Pratt Homes, told BarrieToday. “There’s a process under the Ontario Building Code and we’ve committed to that. There are serious levels of inspection that were undertaken.
“This tornado did not discriminate between builders or building inspectors. … This tornado was a catastrophic event,” she added. “I have seen nothing except one tweet and no engineering reports, or anything of that nature, that suggested these homes were not built to code.
“We take an incredible amount of steps to ensure that our homes meet every safety standard that we possibly can,” Pratt-Hansen said, mentioning flood and fire protection, even working with police tactical units for hostage situations and terrorist attacks.
Fabrizio Cortellucci, president of Concord-based Zancor Homes, said it built approximately 250 homes in the tornado-affected area.
“Certain homes were built by Zancor Homes (Sunflower) Ltd., from 2004-2008, by using qualified and experienced design professionals and trade contractors,” he said in a statement to BarrieToday on Friday. “As far as Zancor Homes (Sunflower) Ltd., knows and believes, all codes at the time of construction were complied with and safety requirements were met.
“Zancor Homes (Sunflower) Ltd., is not aware of the deficiencies reported nor aware of such deficiencies. More will be known once the full investigations are completed,” Cortellucci added. “As not all information is available at this time, it would be inappropriate to offer gratuitous comment.”
Baywood Homes could not be reached for comment.
Pratt-Hansen said her company, which has been building locally for six generations, is now focused on supporting the community and families which have been displaced by the tornado, and aiding the clean-up effort.
She is also looking into additional safety measures for homes, such as hurricane straps or clips — which connect and strengthen wood-framed roofs and houses, and are most commonly made of galvanized steel or stainless steel. They are designed to help protect structures from severe weather.
“We’ve reached out to senior city staff about hurricane straps, home builders' associations, (to) let the city know we are absolutely open to incorporating them into all of our future homes in Barrie if this adds a level of safety and protection to the homes,” Pratt-Hansen said.
Coun. Natalie Harris, who was in a Sun King Crescent house which lost its roof during the tornado, has said she will bring this issue to city council, which next meets Aug. 9.
Harris has said her intent is to request the province to change the Ontario Building Code to include mandatory hurricane straps in areas where tornadoes are evident; she wants the city to add a clause that all new building projects include hurricane straps.
The city itself has also weighed in on the building code arguments connected to the tornado-damaged homes.
Andrea Miller, Barrie’s general manager of infrastructure and growth management, noted there’s a difference between meeting the building code, which defines minimum construction requirements, and building homes to be tornado resistant — a standard much higher than specified in the building code.
She said it’s unreasonable to expect a roof to resist tornado-strength winds and the resulting forces when roofs are not required to be designed for that.
“Suggestions that the homes in Barrie affected by (the July 15) tornado did not follow (Ontario’s Building) Code casts a misleading shadow on the excellent work of our registered building professionals as well as the broader building industry,” Miller said in a July 19 statement.
The municipality’s role is to enforce the Building Code Act and Ontario’s Building Code by setting fees for building permits, reviewing and issuing building permits, inspecting sites for compliance during construction and issuing stop work and compliance orders.
Each municipal council must appoint a chief building official and as many qualified inspectors as needed to carry out their Building Code enforcement duties.
When a building or construction does not comply with the Building Code Act or the Building Code regulation, municipal building inspectors can issue an order to enforce compliance. If the orders are not followed, municipalities can prosecute individuals including building owners.
In addition to reaching speeds of 210 km/h, Barrie’s EF2 tornado on July 15 had a damage track about 12 kilometres long and 600 metres wide, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).
Just after 2:30 p.m. that day, a tornado tracked from the miniature golf course on Huronia Road and Mapleview Drive and continued east toward Prince William Way, where it caused significant damage on the north side of Mapleview, and then went beyond the Prince William Way subdivision, according to ECCC.
Trees were uprooted or toppled, at least 10 roofs on homes were torn away and the second floor was destroyed or removed from two houses. A couple of vehicles were overturned and roof shingles were damaged or blown away from a number of other homes along the tornado’s track.
The storm injured 10 people. All 10 have since been released from hospital and are recovering.