Fortified Home Design Pioneered on the Texas Gulf Coast
Across the U.S., and especially the Gulf Coast, developers are building a new generation of residences resilient to storm damage and hurricanes.
In Galveston, Texas, developer Crown Team Texas is constructing homes atop tall concrete stilts.
They are built to withstand hurricane winds as well as the most severe flooding, says Jim Hayes, the managing principal. Crown Team's Audubon Village and four other subdivisions are built on a peninsula 70 miles southeast of Houston. The land is at risk, as it rests below the flood point.
"I was inspired by Alys Beach, and we decided to build subdivisions based off those standards," Hayes said.
The insurance industry is a major force behind efforts to build super-strong houses. Fortified homes such as those at Alys Beach and Audubon Village are being constructed to new standards set by an insurer-backed nonprofit in Tampa, Fla.
That organization, the Institute for Business & Home Safety, started the "Fortified... for safer living" program in 2000. It combines strict building guidelines with a rigorous inspection process. It also provides home certifications that builders can advertise and home buyers can use to request insurance discounts.
Across 14 states, 2,500 built or planned homes follow the program, says manager Chuck Vance. What it entails depends on area risks.
Inspiration for better building has arisen from the devastating hurricanes of 2004 and 2005, Katrina included. These storms — the costliest in U.S. history — did billions of dollars damage and left hundreds of thousands homeless. The wreckage showed how poorly weaker structures fared and how choice of materials and construction methods made a difference.
"Evidently, the damage caused has people concerned about home safety in disaster-prone areas," said Gopal Ahluwalia, a vice president at the National Association of Home Builders. "The other big issue is owners cannot afford the cost to insure their homes in these areas."
In hurricane country, insurance costs skyrocketed and availability waned after the storms. But now a few insurers offer discounts on fortified homes in coastal areas.
Fortification could cut policy costs in half, says Insurance Information Institute Chief Economist Robert Hartwig. But just 2% of homes in at-risk areas are fortified.
Building fortified adds 3% to 10% to costs, Vance estimates.
"That's not much to pay for a little peace of mind," he said.
Some fortified homes carry luxury price tags — in Alys Beach they run to $5 million. But Hayes sells stilt homes for $130,000 to $288,000.
He starts with 10-foot holes he fills with concrete to form 14-by-14-inch columns. Reinforced with steel rods, these stand 20 feet in the air, above foreseeable floods.
The home's frame is built with extra-strong laminated wood and interlocking plank floors. The builder uses special nails that have to be cut to be removed. The home is bolted into the concrete columns.
Manufacturers are joining the fortification act, developing materials that protect against storm damage.
Such innovations are finding a market among seekers of sturdy homes. But the broadest construction changes across communities may come from building codes.
Fortified homes have a higher resale value, Hartwig says, adding that even older homes can be retrofitted to improve durability and thus increase their value.
"The return on investment by retrofitting or buying a fortified home will be more than investing in decorative home amenities.
Watch video on the storm proof home building process
Example Homes Built Using New Modular Fortified Design
| ||Laguna Harbor: The community, located on the Intracoastal Waterway, features canals that are six to 10 feet deep and 100 to 334 feet wide. Each home site in Laguna Harbor has water frontage for a private boat dock that can accommodate vessels from 20 to 100 feet. |
Laguna Harbor is for those who find refuge at home but escape to the sea. You'll discover numerous home site options incorporating a self-contained, new urbanism philosophy.
| ||Audubon Village: All homes in Audubon Village will have striking panoramic views of pristine, undisturbed Texas coastal prairie, along with magnificent sunrises over the Gulf and beautiful sunsets over the Bay. |
Inside the private park lies a lake and The Lagoon Pool, a nature inspired swimming pool with sloping sides and organic curves, all nestled within a natural green space. Relax and watch the waves roll in at our exclusive Beachside Cabana, easily accessible via our cart paths and private beach access.
See New York Times article on these Fortified Homes at http://www.texasgulfcoastonline.com/Portals/0/NYTimes_6-22-06.pdf
Crown Team is building all its homes to the I.B.H.S Fortified Living Standards, which specifies construction, design and landscaping guidelines to increase a new home's resistance to natural disaster from the ground up. For information on I.B.H.S. and Fortified...for safer living® click here
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Comment By USGS
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Comment By Myrtle Beach Herald
USGS Has Science That Weathers The Storm
In recognition of the impending hurricane season, the USGS has initiated specific actions to prepare for a season that runs June through October. Improved monitoring of conditions on the ground from flooding and storm surge, enhanced ability to navigate in a disaster zone, and better assessments of the effect on coastlines and ecology are among the benefits anticipated from these actions.
Enhanced Monitoring of Floods and Storm Surge. Four major actions are underway to prepare for monitoring floods arising from hurricanes and other tropical storms. USGS activities include: 1) strengthening streamgages along the Gulf Coast; 2) implementing rapidly deployable, mobile gages on streams; 3) developing capabilities to measure hurricane-driven storm surges; and 4) installing an emergency satellite-communications and data-distribution system. These activities are coordinated with the National Weather Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other Federal, State, and local organizations.
“ These coordinated actions will ensure timely and uninterrupted water information for forecasters, emergency managers, scientists and the general public,” says Robert Hirsch, USGS Associate Director for Water. “Improved flood monitoring and assessment will help reduce the risks to coastal communities, property, and human life.”
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Comment By American Homeowners Association
North Carolina Flood Insurance Rates May Soar From Building Code - looks like Texas builders are providing options in advance.
The North Carolina Building Code Council continues to debate whether extending stricter codes to all homes up to 25 miles from the ocean would benefit or hurt home owners in the state. Current regulations only require new homes within 1,500 feet to install additional safety features.
Some of the safety features required under the international codes include plywood panels, hurricane shutters, or shatter-resistant windows. Construction firms and developers contend the new requirements would increase the costs of homes in the region. Also, some council members are concerned the additional costs would preclude middle and low-income residents from owning property in the region.
However, if homes are not required to install additional safety features, many municipalities would lose their discount points under the National Flood Insurance Program, which aids consumers with flood insurance premiums.
In fact, Wrightsville Beach would see its discount rates on flood coverage drop from a 25-percent discount to just 10 percent. South Carolina officials, who adopted the international code in 2005, said residents preferred the additional safety features to hikes in insurance premiums. Now, many developers use the added safety features on homes as a selling point.
Source: Myrtle Beach Herald (S.C.) (07/06/07)
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Comment By Weather.com
If you haven't lived through a hurricane, you might not appreciate the value of a hurricane-proof home.
Sparked by interest from the insurance industry, builders are creating cutting-edge technology homes designed to survive the worst Mother Nature can dish out in a hurricane. Not exactly hurricane-proof, these homes nonetheless bear the punishment better and provide more safety and security.
You might assume these hefty homes look like bunkers or fortresses but they don't. The builders boast they sacrifice nothing aesthetically in using hurricane-resistant construction.
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Comment By anthony
If you already own a home, you can take steps to protect your home from Hurricane Damage.
Hurricanes are like no other storms on earth. From Maine to Texas, and in Hawaii, these ferocious weather systems bring torrential rain, flooding, storm surges and devastating winds that damage homes, destroy treasured keepsakes and disrupt family life.
You don't have to be blown away when a hurricane hits. It's never too early to prepare and you can take several basic steps right now to protect your family and your home from disaster.
First Things First
Find out if your home meets current building code requirements for high-wind regions (for example, the International Residential Code, which is promulgated by the International Code Council). Experts agree that structures built to meet or exceed current model building codes' high-wind provisions have a much better chance of surviving violent windstorms.
If you're handy with a hammer and saw, you can do much of the work yourself. Work involving your home's structure may require a building contractor, however, or even a registered design professional such as an architect or engineer.
When Working Outside
* Replace gravel/rock landscaping material with shredded bark.
* Keep trees and shrubbery trimmed. Cut weak branches and trees that could fall on your house.
When Building or Remodeling
Windows: If you are replacing your existing windows, install impact-resistant window systems, which have a much better chance of surviving a major windstorm. As an alternative to new window systems, install impact-resistant shutters that close over window openings to prevent flying debris from breaking windowpanes.
Entry Doors: Make certain your doors have at least three hinges and a dead bolt security lock with a bolt at least one inch long. Anchor door frames securely to wall framing.
Patio Doors: Sliding glass doors are more vulnerable to wind damage than most other doors. If you are replacing your patio doors or building a new home, consider installing impact-resistant door systems made of laminated glass, plastic glazing or a combination of plastic and glass. When a hurricane threatens, an easy, temporary and effective step is to cover the entire patio door with shutters made of plywood or oriented strand board (OSB).
Garage Doors: Because of their size, garage doors are highly susceptible to wind damage. A qualified inspector can determine if both the door and the track system can resist high winds and, if necessary, help replace them with a stronger system. Garage doors more than eight feet wide are most vulnerable. Install permanent wood or metal stiffeners. Or contact the door manufacturer's technical staff for recommendations about temporary center supports you can attach and remove easily when severe weather threatens.
Roofs: If you are replacing your roof, take steps to ensure that both the new roof covering and the sheathing it attaches to will resist high winds. Your roofing contractor should:
* Remove old coverings down to the bare wood sheathing.
* Remove enough sheathing to confirm that rafters and trusses are securely connected to the walls.
* Replace damaged sheathing.
* Refasten existing sheathing according to the proper fastening schedule outlined in the current model building code for high-wind regions.
* Install a roof covering that is designed to resist high winds.
* Seal all roof sheathing joints with self-stick rubberized asphalt tape to provide a secondary moisture barrier.
If you want to give your roof sheathing added protection, but it's not time to reroof, glue the sheathing to the rafters and trusses. Use an adhesive that conforms to Performance Specification AFG-01 developed by APA -- The Engineered Wood Association, which you can find at any hardware store or home improvement center.
Gables: Make certain the end wall of a gable roof is braced properly to resist high winds. Check the current model building code for high-wind regions for appropriate guidance, or consult a qualified architect or engineer.
Connections: The points where the roof and the foundation meet the walls of your home are extremely important if your house is to resist high winds and the pressures they place on the entire structure.
* Anchor the roof to the walls with metal clips and straps (most easily added when you replace your roof).
* Make certain the walls are properly anchored to the foundation. A registered design professional can determine if these joints need retrofitting, and a qualified contractor can perform the work the design professional identifies.
* If your house has more than one story, make certain the upper story wall framing is firmly connected to the lower framing. The best time to do this is when you remodel.
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Comment By anthony
Fortified homes on the Gulf coast...Genius!!! who thought of this one.
$500K home on the gulf coast....what an investment!!
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Comment By vera
Home insurance....nonsense. Who needs insurance when there's FEMA
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Comment By bk
structural engineering design -fortified design for gulf coast -contact us by email or call 409-974-4506.
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Anthony - I agree with you the ownor across the street from us received fair market value plus 10 to 15 percent from fema n the loss of their house which was uninsured - they county may turn the lot into a park bringing our property value down. they get a brand new home somewhere else we lose it sucks thanks fema
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