Courtesy IBHS

In order to improve resiliency for a new coastal Alabama complex, developers of the Colonial Inn Condominiums embraced the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s (IBHS) Fortified Commercial construction standards and earned the first-ever FORTIFIED Commercial–Hurricane Gold designation in the U.S., the highest level of resiliency certification offered by IBHS.

The project, built on an historic site in Fairhope, Ala., overlooking the Mobile Bay, creates a strong continuous load path, which ties the entire structure together and enables it to stand firm against extreme winds. It also includes onsite power backup for important utilities.

On property, there are five units, each containing roughly 2,500 square feet of living space and a two-car garage, separated into three buildings. Building one houses four units, building two houses one unit, and building three contains garages. Both unit buildings are two-story, insulating concrete form (ICF) FORTIFIED construction, while the garages are a single-story, frame construction.

“Our initial plans were to use wood frame construction for all of the condo’s buildings, but high insurance premiums and scarce and expensive building materials sent us in another direction,” says Carlton Niemeyer, the project's developer. “After evaluating all our options, it became obvious to us that based on insurance savings, as well as cost and time to complete the basic structure, that ICF and Fortified construction was our best choice for the condominiums.”

IBHS designed the voluntary, construction standard and designation program, with Bronze, Silver, and Gold levels, to ensure new commercial buildings stand stronger against severe weather, including hurricanes, high winds, and hail.

“Over the past five years, IBHS has approved more than 7,000 Fortified Homes in Alabama, which leads the nation in Fortified construction,” says Chuck Miccolis, IBHS vice president of commercial lines, in a press release. “With the Colonial Inn Condominiums project, in addition to the new Gulf State Park project in Gulf Shores, Ala., we have now established how commercial structures in Alabama can also be built stronger to withstand severe weather events.”

Although Fortified Commercial designations are currently only available in Alabama, IBHS continues to promote resilient home, business, and community designs throughout the country.