Feature Story By THOMAS A. MiERz WA
Wind, Water and Pre-Existing structural defects
forensic work is to structures that are
around 50-percent damaged to no damage at all.
A claims adjuster may find the insured structured demolished, while
neighboring structures remain intact
and suffer minimal damage. Why is
this? Could there be a construction defect that allowed the wind and/or flood
to damage the structure? Certain investigate tips and research can help claims
professionals accurately answer these
types of questions.
For wind-related events to buildings, the
first questions that should be raised are:
How fast was the wind?
Answers can be found through common weather-related Web sites and the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is important
to use several different weather stations
that encompass the subject property,
and either average the data or use conservative values.
In the event of a tornado, hurricane, or severe tropical storm, the potential for damage to nearby buildings and civil structures is significant. This potential in- creases with various factors, such as the proximity of the storm event to the structure, age, construction quality, engineering, and materials used in construction.
For hurricanes and tropical storms, for example, structures along the coastline are at
greater risk than structures built inland. The reason is there can be a substantial wind
component on top of tidal surge and flooding that must be taken into consideration. For
inland structures, the strength of the wind and tidal surges are less from hurricanes and
tropical storms even though flooding can still result from heavy rainfalls. Tornadoes
mostly impact inland structures in areas deemed to be at higher risk through analyzing
historical weather patterns.
After these occurrences, damage to structures can range from a total loss to no damage at all except that the concerned policyholder believes his or her property may have
Buildings that have been demolished by such a catastrophic event may not leave
clues from which the claims adjuster or engineer can determine what portion of the
storm resulted from wind/water infiltration compared to flooding. Most structural
How old is the structure?
This question is relevant because an
older structure may not sustain the impact of high winds as well as a newly
constructed building. As building codes
become more defined, loading conditions for wind and snow have generally
For example, a new building along
the coast may be designed for 120-mph
winds, whereas a 40-year-old building
may have only had to be designed for
80-mph winds. Sometimes, though,
the exact opposite is true. Sometimes
older buildings sustain less damage
while newer (and commonly lighter)
buildings sustain more damage. This
is because of the use of bigger, thicker
materials (which are often heavier) that
can help restrict the movement of a