Storm Warning: Hawaii Buildings Not Up to Code


Almost everyone living in Hawaii in 1992 can still remember the devastation left by Iniki, which came ashore on Kauai as a Category 4 hurricane. It took more than a decade for the Garden Island to fully recover.

That’s why it’s troubling that Hawaii’s building code only requires new structures to be built to withstand a Category 3 hurricane. Most Mainland states base their codes on a more recent and stricter version of the International Building Code, including many states that have not been hit by any hurricanes in modern times.

One day last summer, Hawaii had three “Category 4 hurricanes in our neighborhood,” says Gaur Johnson, assistant professor of structural engineering at UH Manoa. Knowing that “our building code is intended to design for a Category 3 storm, I was extremely worried.”

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