Do you live in Florida or another state where you can expect frequent hurricanes or other severe weather? If you are building a new house, you should make it hurricane-proof. This guide will offer you some tips to ensure that your home has the best chance of surviving the next natural disaster. But first, let’s discuss why hurricane-proofing a house is so important.
Do You Need a Hurricane-Proof House?
If your area is at high risk for hurricanes, yes, you need a hurricane proof home! Your home is one of your biggest investments, and it is worth putting in some extra money and consideration if it means protecting that investment. Plus, your home also protects your biggest emotional investments: your life and those of your loved ones. The stronger and sturdier your home is, the safer your family will be.
Another consideration is building codes. Chances are good that if you live in an area with lots of hurricanes, your jurisdiction’s building codes require you to have a hurricane-proof house anyway. You have to conform to those building codes if you want your structure to be legal.
Hurricanes Are Only Getting Worse Because of Climate Change
One of the effects of climate change over the years ahead is going to be increasingly destructive weather events. That includes hurricanes.
NASA says, “Due to global warming, global climate models predict hurricanes will likely cause more intense rainfall and have an increased coastal flood risk due to higher storm surge caused by rising seas. Additionally, the global frequency of storms may decrease or remain unchanged, but hurricanes that form are more likely to become intense.”
NASA adds, “Most models show that climate change brings a slight increase in hurricane wind intensity … a greater proportion of the storms that form will reach very intense (Category 4 or 5) levels.”
So, the hurricane-proof houses we are building now need to be ready for these more intense winds and rains.
Tips for Hurricane-Proof Home Design
Now that you understand why hurricane-proof housing is necessary, let’s go over some recommendations for designing your own hurricane-proof home.
1. Choose the right site.
Designing a hurricane-proof house starts with picking a suitable location for your home. Stay away from flood plains, as these are some of the most dangerous places you can be in a hurricane.
If you have a hilly plot, try and elevate your home. Do not put it in one of the low spots. That way, water will drain down away from your home, not down to your home.
2. Build your home from concrete and other robust materials.
Hurricane-proof houses need to be constructed from solid materials that can withstand high winds. That means opting for concrete, masonry, or steel in many cases. You can get away with wood if you use strapping (see below), but it is not as ideal as the other materials we just listed. You could also consider a fiberglass house.
A particularly excellent choice for hurricane-proof houses is insulated concrete form (ICF) walls. An example can be seen at Florida Green Construction:
“Insulated concrete forms (ICFs) make each wall, concrete is poured into 4” precast frames and lace it with lengths of horizontal and vertical steel rebar with 2 ½” expanded polystyrene insulation on both sides with effective R-29 insulation value, which results in up to 70% energy savings on monthly electric bills. The exterior walls are capable of withstanding hurricane winds and flying debris of up to 200 MPH+.”
Pretty awesome, right? You are combining the structural strength of concrete and steel with ICF walls, and as a bonus, they save you money on electricity and boost the sustainability of your hurricane-proof house.
As Florida Green Construction points out, ICF walls have some other advantages as well. For one thing, they help to keep pollen, dust and allergens from entering your home. In this way, they help to preserve healthy air quality. Additionally, they do not introduce contaminants of their own since they do not contain unhealthy materials like asbestos or formaldehyde.
ICF walls are also good at suppressing sound. You might appreciate this during a hurricane, and find it convenient the rest of the time—especially if you have noisy neighbors or lots of traffic near your home.
With ICF walls, your home can resist moisture buildup and the growth of mold and mildew. This can be helpful both during storms and the rest of the time, particularly for residents of Florida, a notoriously humid state.
As additional benefits, ICF walls are resistant to fire and termites. So, that just adds to their overall durability and dependability.
3. Pick the right shape for your hurricane-proof home.
If you are checking out photos of hurricane-proof houses, you might notice that quite a few of them have a rounded shape. The reason this shape does a good job holding up during high winds is that it helps to distribute the pressure of the wind, preventing it from overwhelming one wall of the structure.
The slope of the roof is important too. An ideal angle for resisting hurricane-force winds is 30 degrees.
4. Make use of strapping and shear walls.
While constructing your home to withstand hurricanes, shear walls can be helpful. These types of specially-framed walls are designed to hold up to lateral forces and keep the structure itself from moving laterally. They not only can help prevent wind from pushing your structure sideways, but water as well if you are in a flood zone.
Shear walls may be constructed from a variety of materials, including concrete, masonry, steel or wood.
Then there is strapping. “Strapping” a house is installing long nylon or metal straps that help hold the walls and trusses of a home together. In short, strapping your roof prevents the wind from ripping it off.
5. Follow sustainable design principles.
As we discussed previously, climate change is going to increase the intensity of hurricanes and other natural disasters over the decades ahead.
So, while you are designing your hurricane-proof house, you should think about what you can do to help curb climate change (rather than just weathering its effects).
Look for ways you can decrease your carbon footprint. Here are some ideas:
- Install energy-efficient windows, doors and insulation that reduce your need to heat and cool your home.
- Install solar panels on your roof. If you live in Florida, most days will be bright and sunny, so you might as well take full advantage. With solar panels installed, you can harness passive energy and further reduce your electric bills and carbon impact.
- Choose ICF for your walls. Along with the other benefits we talked about, this type of concrete wall is eco-friendly.
You can also use green materials and construction methods when you are building your hurricane-proof home; this is something you can talk to your suppliers and contractors about during the planning stages.
6. Choose hurricane-rated windows and doors.
While they may cost you a premium, it is essential to purchase windows and doors for your home that are specifically rated to withstand hurricane conditions.
In fact, this is a common requirement specified by building codes in many hurricane zones.
You can even take things a step further and build a home that includes movable panels that you can close over top of large windows in the event if strong winds. As an extra benefit, they can increase your privacy when desired.
7. Equip your home with a generator.
One more tip for building a hurricane-proof home is to think about some of the other inconveniences high winds and flooding can bring that go beyond threats to the structure of your home.
It is quite common to lose power during a hurricane. In some cases, outages may last for days. For that reason, it is a good idea to equip any home in a hurricane zone with a reliable generator.
You can have this in mind when you are designing the layout for your home. You could incorporate a space in your house specifically for your generator, or you could build an outdoor generator shed. Either way, try and keep the generator as accessible and well-protected as possible in stormy conditions.
What about solar power? Solar panels certainly can be helpful if the grid goes down, but remember that they might sometimes be damaged in high enough winds. Plus, there may not be a lot of sunlight for them to soak up. That is why having a generator at least as a backup is a good idea.
Build Your Hurricane-Proof House
It can be daunting thinking about how hurricanes may be getting worse over the years to come. But if you build your home out of strong, hurricane-ready materials and you incorporate features like strapping and shear walls, you can construct a house that can endure many harsh storms.