Columbia city code changes could require storm shelters at future schools

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COLUMBIA - Changes to the Columbia city code would require storm shelters in future public schools, joint commissions and fire stations.

The push for the storm shelters by the Building Construction Codes Commission began after destructive tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri and Oklahoma in recent years, according to John Simon, the buildings regulation supervisor. 

Simon said the code changes would require any schools or emergency operation centers, like police and fire stations, be built in the future with the International Code Council 500 2015 requirements. The attachment would allow up to five square feet per person, 10 square feet per handicapped person and 30 square feet per bed ridden person. 

"Staff is not aware of any current structures which meet this requirement in full but that doesn't mean that they are in violation of building code in any way, only that they wouldn't meet this code if built after these codes go into effect," said Shane Creech, building and site development manager. "The same could be said for a variety of aspects of construction from ADA requirements to energy efficiency as well."

Simon said although the project will be expensive, he does not see why anyone would not want to protect children and first responders.

"It is all kind of political," he said. "What would you say if someone were to ask you, 'Well, don't you want to protect the children?'"

Creech said staff and the Building Construction Code Commission "want the community to be aware of the added cost associated with this change. Staff also didn't want to catch Columbia Public Schools for instance off guard as they often have several schools in various phases of design."

The changes to the City Code also update residential and commercial property energy efficiency by requiring certain tests to ensure buildings are conserving as much energy as possible. 

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