KWK Makes Tornado-Proofing Upgrades for Midwestern Colleges

By Eric Althoff

LOUIS—KWK Architects is training its expertise on crafting dorm rooms that can adequately withstand the ferocity of tornados, which are a very real threat throughout a significant part of the country. Accordingly, KWK has been tapped to design “reinforced” rooms and storm shelters that can withstand the ferocity of such storms.

KWK has designed such reinforced rooms for a group of schools in Tornado Alley, including Headington and Dunham Residential Colleges at the University of Oklahoma, the University Commons residential complex at Missouri S&T and Victor E. Village at Fort Hays State University in Kansas.

Javier Esteban, principal at St. Louis-based KWK, said that such rooms should be constructed according to standards fashioned by International Code Council (ICC) 500 and the National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA), however that is not always possible.

“Many times the restrictions in terms of ventilation, structure, and exit requirements make designing to these codes cost-prohibitive for universities,” Esteban said. “In those instances, it is still possible to design for student safety via a compromise where some public areas of the residence hall have strengthened or reinforced structures, doors, and windows.

“It is critically important to maintain the structure of the reinforced area so that should a building collapse occur, it does not affect the integrity of the reinforced space, and its occupants remain safe,” he said, adding that these tornado safe rooms are meant to withstand EF-4 or EF-5 storms.