Hurricane-Proof Homes: Safety Meets Modern Living

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Faisal Nadeem

Building a hurricane-proof house is a challenging task, but making it hurricane-resistant is a practical goal. According to Mark Buskuhl, founder and CEO of Ninebird Properties in Dallas, Texas, it’s impossible to be completely safe from the fierce nature of hurricanes. However, builders can implement measures to make a home more resilient against natural disasters.

This approach is particularly important along the Atlantic seaboard and Gulf Coast, where intense weather conditions like Tornadoes in the Great Plains and atmospheric rivers in California are common. The high winds and hurricane-force gusts resulting from Climate change are increasing the frequency of these storms.

Florida is the hub for hurricane-resistant buildings due to its vulnerability to Category 5 hurricanes, which can rip off a roof, shatter windows, and lift a house off its foundation. Flooding from storm surges and heavy rainfall often causes even more damage. Companies like Deltec Homes and Ninebird are leading the way in designing structures that withstand high waters and winds.

For instance, in Marsh Harbor, after Hurricane Dorian in 2019, the only homes left standing were Deltec-built. Their high-performance round homes offer 360-degree views and are architecturally distinctive. Over the past 30 years, these homes have a 99.9% survival rate against major hurricanes like Andrew, Katrina, Wilma, Michael, and Ian.

What Is a Hurricane-Resistant House?

A hurricane-resistant house is specifically built to withstand high winds and heavy flooding. The location of the home plays a crucial role in safeguarding it against hurricanes. Buskuhl emphasizes that houses in low-lying areas or flood-prone zones are at higher risk of damage. Therefore, choosing a safe and elevated spot for your home is essential.

Building codes have become more stringent to enhance hurricane resistance, but there are additional ways to improve a house’s structural integrity. These include using hurricane straps or tie-downs to secure the roof to the walls. Companies like Deltec also suggest modifications in the design, such as altering the shape of the building, using stronger materials, and adjusting the pitch of the roof.

These strategies significantly impact the integrity of the structure, ensuring it remains robust during extreme weather events.

Features of a Hurricane-Resistant House

When thinking about hurricane proof houses, it’s important to understand the designing and structural elements that make a house resistant to high winds and heavy rain. A key aspect is the elevation of the foundation to prevent flood damage. In Florida, where hurricane resistance is crucial, homes are built to stringent building codes, ensuring they can withstand severe weather.

Deltec homes, known for their circular and octagonal shapes, deflect wind more efficiently than traditional square or rectangular structures.

To further reinforce a house in a hurricane zone, install hurricane ties and secure roof trusses with continuous metal strapping. Upgrading the roof with a 6/12 pitch and using multiple rooflines can help deflect wind and prevent lift. Hurricane-resistant windows and shutters, along with sealing gaps to prevent air from entering the structure, are also essential.

Additionally, clearing gutters and drains to handle large amounts of rain runoff is necessary to protect the home. Ensure the garage door is strong and well-sealed, as it can be a vulnerable point in the event of a hurricane.

What are Hurricane-Resistant Houses Made Of?

In my experience as a builder, constructing hurricane-proof houses involves selecting the right materials and techniques to withstand severe weather conditions. Using steel and poured concrete is crucial as these materials resist wind far better than traditional options. An innovative approach includes using composite blocks and timbers made from recycled plastic bottles.

A company in Nova Scotia, JD Composites, has developed these materials, which they claim are even more wind-resistant. For those who prefer traditional building methods, Deltec recommends constructing a stick structure with wood sheathing. They advise using five-ply 5/8-inch plywood instead of oriented strand board (OSB) for the sheathing and 2,400 psi framing lumber for the trusses and walls. Ensuring that Hurricane windows are made from impact-resistant glass is also vital as it prevents them from shattering and keeps the wind out of the structure.

When planning the layout, consider the plan section elevation to optimize wind resistance and structural integrity. If you’re designing townhomes, keep in mind the principles of R4 zoning to ensure compliance with local regulations. Understanding the base flood elevation meaning is crucial for building in flood-prone areas, which is often the case for hurricane-prone regions.

The use of composite blocks and timbers in construction can significantly enhance the durability of walls and other structural elements. Meanwhile, integrating impact-resistant glass in Hurricane windows prevents shattering, a common issue during storms. By leveraging materials like steel and poured concrete, and innovative products from JD Composites, builders can create homes that are not only resilient but also sustainable, using recycled plastic bottles.

Whether constructing a stick structure or using advanced composites, the goal is to build homes that stand firm against nature’s fury.

How Much does a Hurricane-Resistant House Cost?

You can expect the cost of a hurricane-resistant home to vary significantly based on several factors. A modular home can be purchased and installed on site for anywhere between $180,000 and $360,000, depending on the size and floor plan. The average price for these homes is about $270,000.

These homes are built in a factory setting, which ensures they are put together more securely and can withstand strong winds up to 185 mph. Additional features like windows and shutters are optional but highly recommended for extra protection.

If you hire a company like Deltec to build a custom hurricane-resistant home, the cost is generally higher, typically falling between $175 and $250 per square foot. This is about twice the cost of a conventional home. These custom homes are designed to offer maximum durability and safety in harsh environments. While this might seem steep, the investment is worth it for the secure feeling of knowing your home can handle extreme weather conditions.

Houses Designed to Survive Superstorms

Living in the US or the Caribbean during hurricane season means always being prepared. When Hurricane Ian made landfall, many people were left bracing for the worst. It’s a stark reminder of how vulnerable areas can be swept away, leaving homes, possessions, and communities in ruins. This reality underscores the importance of building robust, hurricane-resistant houses that serve as the first line of defense against these natural disasters.

Such houses utilize special design features to create safer and stronger dwellings that can weather the storm when nature shows its worst side.

I’ve seen firsthand the devastation that hurricanes can cause. After Hurricane Ian, I knew the significance of having a hurricane-resistant house. These homes are built to withstand strong winds and flying debris, with designs that are both robust and resilient. Special design features, such as reinforced roofs and impact-resistant windows, make these houses incredibly safer.

Living in one of these stronger dwellings provides peace of mind, knowing that even in the most vulnerable areas, there is a sanctuary built to endure and protect. When nature does its worst, these houses stand as a testament to human ingenuity and resilience.

Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Florida

On Wednesday, 28 September, Hurricane Ian struck the Gulf Coast with immense force, marking a significant landfall in Florida. As a Category 4 storm, it unleashed 150 mph winds across the Sunshine State’s coast, creating a life-threatening storm surge and catastrophic winds. The National Hurricane Center issued evacuation orders to millions of residents due to the impending danger of flooding throughout the Florida Peninsula. Meanwhile, Cuba experienced sweeping power outages, extensive damage, and devastating floods, leading to tragic losses of life.

Making a home hurricane-resistant

In the wake of devastating storms like Hurricane Sandy, architects and designers are working on innovative plans to build hurricane-proof houses. These homes are designed to withstand the fury of a superstorm. One such plan, created for the Global Design Ideas Competition by the social charity ORLI, aims at helping neighborhoods affected by such natural disasters.

Through this competition, cutting-edge design solutions are sought to protect communities from future storms. As an architect involved in these projects, I’ve seen firsthand how vital these efforts are. The challenge is not just technical but also deeply rooted in the need for charity and social support to rebuild lives and homes.

The future of hurricane-proof design

In a world where extreme weather and rising sea levels are common, cities must adapt to survive. Innovative architecture firms like BIG, in collaboration with marine engineers from Oceanix and MIT’s Center for Ocean Engineering, have developed a bold vision for the future. They designed a hexagonal island concept that can be expanded with modules to house 10,000 people. This man-made archipelago, known as Oceanix City, features buildings constructed from cheap, light, and renewable materials such as bamboo.

These cities are designed with power sources like wind and solar energy, and include purpose-built facilities for growing food and farming. This design incorporates underwater seafood farms where mussels, oysters, and seaweed clean the water. The goal is to create a sustainable, floating, and affordable city available for coastal areas in need. Oceanix co-founder Marc Collins Chen emphasizes that this should be a privilege not just for the rich but for everyone.

What is brownstone?

FQA:

What is the best hurricane proof house?

From my experience, round homes like those built by Deltec are the smartest choice for areas prone to high winds. Unlike conventional construction, these homes are ingeniously designed as a system to be hurricane resistant. Every aspect of the design makes them perform better in hurricanes.

What shape is best for a hurricane proof house?

Based on my research, I’ve found that homes designed with a square floor plan or even better, octagonal or hexagonal plans, can withstand hurricanes effectively. These shapes, combined with a multiple-panel roof that has four or more panels, are crucial. Such designs help in distributing the lowest wind loads across the structure. When getting your home built, it’s wise to follow this shape for better protection.

Why doesn’t Florida build hurricane proof homes?

Gregory explained that developers often don’t build hurricane-proof homes because there’s not enough demand. It’s usually the developer who makes the design decisions for buildings rather than the owner. While the market for such structures isn’t large, if demand responds, more hurricane-proof homes might be built. This design process involves multiple decisions, and the market plays a key role in influencing what gets built.

Are greenhouses hurricane proof?

After seeing how well Greenhouse structures hold up during extreme weather, I’m convinced. The Company’s specially designed frames have been built and tested in the notorious hurricane alley for over 30 years. With an impressive 99.9% survival rate, it’s clear that these structures are made to last. One notable example is the Jāderloon® Greenhouse which, as shown in the right conditions, successfully withstood Hurricane Irma without problems.