Hurricane Proof Homes (this section still under construction)
Florida has responded to hurricane devastation by substantially changing its building codes. Dade County has gone a step further and now has the toughest building codes in the nation. Broward County has adopted Dade’s codes and the remainder of Florida is evaluating the adoption of some or all of Dade’s code. Product testing for hurricane resistance includes testing for both windload and impact. However, a great deal of hurricane damage results from flooding for which much hurricane product testing is impractical.
FEMA has mapped flood risk for approximately 20,000 U.S. communities, creating documents called FIRMs (Flood Insurance Rate Maps). FIRMs are used by communities to regulate new construction, lenders to determine whether flood insurance is required, insurers to determine premiums, and engineers complete National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) elevation certificates. New construction in coastal flood hazard areas must meet minimum NFIP and community requirements. Repairs, remodeling, and additions must meet community requirements and may also be subject to NFIP requirements.
While the new codes regarding wind, impact and flood must be addressed, the opportunity now exists to make new homes resistant to the strongest hurricanes. Many builders are differentiating themselves by building beyond these code requirements. Benefits of exceeding the minimum requirements are:
- Increased occupant safety
- Reduced building damage during hurricanes or tornadoes
- Longer building lifetime
- Reduced building maintenance
- Reduced insurance premiums
New products that provide superior hurricane protection usually provide other benefits. For example, “insulating concrete forms” (polystyrene building blocks) also provide superior insulation quality, sound quality, fire protection, insect protection, mold resistance, longevity and is recyclable.
When evaluating a site in hurricane affected areas, it is important to consider the impact of wind (trees and adjacent buildings) and flood (low elevations or close proximity to water bodies). If directly on the beach, wind and flood will be more extreme. Coastal erosion and salt-water decay are added concerns. Coastal homes will cost more to design, construct, maintain, repair and insure. There are several building practices specific to building on the beach including increased elevation. This webpage addresses homes in hurricane affected areas versus just those on beachfront.
Builders specializing in hurricane resistant homes, offer various house plans designed for maximum storm protection. These include homes built to withstand 200mph winds and higher. Anyone planning to build a home in a hurricane-affected area should consider hurricane resistance in all phase of design and construction. This includes, but is not limited to the following:
- Safe Room: Building a new home is the best time to incorporate a multi-function Safe Room.
- Foundation: Even if not in a flood zone, evaluate and prepare for the risk of flooding.
- Vertical walls: Steel reinforced masonry walls are far superior to wood framing.
- Vertical walls: Properly installed housewrap is superior to building paper as a moisture barrier.
- Roofs: Hip roofs are superior to gabled roofs. If gabled, use additional bracing.
- Gabled roofs with concrete block walls: Use block and concrete tiebeam to top of eve.
- Soffits: Limit the amount of overhang. (8" overhang is recommended maximum for gabled roof)
- Strapping: Use the maximum number & most secure installation options of non-corrosive straps.
- Doors/windows: Plan walls that accommodate secure installation of doors, windows & shutters.
- Doors/windows: Use of pan flashing is recommended for any type doors and windows.
- Siding: Fiber cement siding is superior to wood siding
- Wood Siding: Back prime wood, metal flash corners, seal joints, tongue & groove is preferable
- Exterior surface: Wind resistant paint and other surface materials are available
- Landscaping: Install or alter landscaping to avoid damage risk
The cost to build is substantially higher in hurricane affected areas.
- Additional materials and labor are required for walls and roofs.
- Hurricane resistant doors and windows are more expensive.
- Hurricane shutters are an added cost.
- The price of most conventional building materials (concrete, wood and metal) has increased.
- New superior building materials are typically more expensive.
However, since a home is likely the most expensive investment and the safety of its occupants paramount, these additional expenses are highly justifiable and increase the market value of the home accordingly.