Last fall, the National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA) held its annual Storm Shelter Conference featuring a variety of technical presentations and certification opportunities. Invited to speak at this year’s event was BHB Mechanical Engineer, Allen Grammer, PE. At the time, Allen sat as Chair of the NSSA’s Mechanical Exam Committee, a group responsible for writing questions seen on the association’s first Accredited Professionals (AP) Exam.
The NSSA developed the exam in response to changes to the International Building Code (IBC), a standard building code adopted by most municipalities across the United States. The 2015 IBC requires new buildings with certain uses and geographical locations to have a storm shelter in accordance with ICC 500 in case of natural disasters.
The NSSA AP program created storm shelter certifications in a variety of specialties, including structural, mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering and architecture. To attain AP status an individual must pass general knowledge and specialty-specific exams and be the proven engineer or architect of record on a storm shelter project. As Chair of the Mechanical Exam Committee, Allen did a thorough study of the current IBC to develop exam questions that could prove applicants understood how to properly apply code requirements to storm shelter designs.
Once the exam had been developed, Allen transitioned to Vice-Chair of the NSSA ICC 500 Chapter 7 work group where he currently reviews code provisions and discusses how to keep the code in line with the latest technology and climate data.
Sitting on both committees has developed the way Allen approaches his designs for emergency storm shelters. For example, he discovered the ICC 500 allows occupants in a tornado storm shelter to manually activate a natural ventilation damper. If a tornado were currently passing through, those inside could temporarily close the damper for comfort and peace of mind.
Although an AP credential is not required for design professionals by current model building codes, it can be advantageous when pursuing relevant work as a design firm. The certification allows Owners and developers to quickly verify a design team’s credentials and ensure technical competency of storm shelter design requirements.
Having taken the AP exam during the 2021 Storm Shelter Conference, Allen hopes to attain his AP status with a mechanical specialty, adding another certification to BHB’s extensive list of accreditations.
“Having the certification isn’t just to win more clients or be advantaged in some way—understanding the rules and requirements helps us to build better storm shelters that could save people’s lives”, says Grammer.
With an increased awareness of the ICC 500 and its intent, BHB employees are working towards streamlining the storm shelter design process. A firm understanding of the code on the front end reduces time spent researching code requirements.
“Our team already knows the requirements. Putting in the effort in advance allows us to provide clients with a more efficient design”, says Grammer.
At BHB, our engineers are devoted to producing the highest quality designs for our clients. To support our efforts, we hope to have an engineer of each discipline pursue and attain their NSSA Storm Shelter Certification.
For more information about storm shelter requirements and how we can help, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.