Smart Design Keeps Caribbean Grocer Open Despite Hurricane

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Smart Design Keeps Caribbean Grocer Open Despite Hurricane

Planning for the worst a dozen years ago paid off for Carribean grocer Graceway IGA in the Turks and Caicos Islands, as the store stayed open for business and even acted as a shelter for local residents in the teeth of Hurricane Ike.

The independent grocer had installed a large-capacity generator during construction 12 years ago, and also laid its store on a steel frame to withstand high winds, all with the help Supervalu-owned Design Services Group.

"I personally recall discussions between the original owners of the store and DSG representatives," said Jim Dunn, the Supervalu area marketing director who still supports the store. "DSG was recommending that the structure be able to withstand straight-line winds of 200 miles per hour, and strongly suggested a large-capacity generator that could power the entire operation. At the time, the owners were concerned about the costs involved, but it is obvious by the way the store handled the storm that the DSG recommendations were taken."

According to DSG, the structural system of the store is a rigid steel frame. This required special detailing at all structural connections, along with much larger and deeper concrete structural footings to be able to counteract a storm's overturning forces.

Designers selected steel panels as the major cladding material due to their inherent strength and durability, and all fasteners had to be selected based on their holding power. Steel shutters also were designed into each opening, to allow the building to be sealed tight by covering weak points in the building envelope.

DSG specified two unique safeguard features to the building that would assist in supporting the island population once a storm had passed - a full-store generator and a concrete water collection/treatment vault located directly under the building floor slab. These features allowed the store to remain open for business through the loss of island power, keeping refrigerated products available to the population, and providing a continual source for treated drinking water as well.

During the height of Hurricane Ike, it is estimated that more than 150 people, including employees and their families, took shelter in the store.

"It is certainly one of the strongest structures on the island, and one of the very few that maintained power throughout a week that won't soon be forgotten," said Dunn.