Hurricane Proof House Design(Last Updated On: April 8, 2019)
The increase magnitude of Hurricanes and Super Storms have all brought hurricane proofing and hurricane proof house design to the forefront of many architects minds. Our Architecture Firm was involved with designing and rebuilding homes destroyed by Super Storm Sandy. Flood Proof and hurricane proof house design is becoming more and more important in recent years. Storm Proof House Design is a requirement for any high risk areas and should be a consideration everywhere else. All photos in this article are from actual projects we worked on.
Hurricane Proof House Ideas
- Location Site Planning.
- Backup Power
Hurricane Proof House Design:
Location: Hurricane Proof Site Planning
- Where to build a hurricane proof house?
You want to avoid flood zones as best as possible. If you are looking to purchase a house stay away from the flood zone. These areas will flood during a hurricane. If you must build in the flood zone we have another article on Flood Zone House Design.
- Even if you are not in the flood zone where to build for hurricane proofing.
If you are in an area prone to hurricanes you want to build your house on a high point on the land. Avoid low points or areas at the bottom of a slope. Water will rush towards the house on a low point causing floods. You can make swales around your house to help divert the water.
A swale is a an area of land that is lower down to create a natural barrier to keep water away from a house or building. By building up the land close to the house you have lower areas around the high point that can divert water away from the house.
Flood Proof House Materials
I have built houses destroyed by storms, floods, and fire different ways. Here are the most common materials and some alternative materials.
Hurricane Proof House Concrete
Concrete is probably the best material for a hurricane proof house. Concrete is strong, durable, readily available, fire resistant, and will last a very long time. I would put concrete homes at the top of my list for the best construction types for hurricane proof houses.
We built several poured in place concrete homes to replace houses destroyed by flood, storm, and fire. Concrete homes will be more expansive than most construction types. You also have aesthetic concerns for concrete homes. Check out another post we wrote on Concrete House Design to learn more about concrete homes.
This is a concrete house with concrete made to look like siding.
Unit Masonry or cement block (CMU) for Hurricane Proof House Design:
You can also build with CMU or cement masonry units also called cement blocks. You can cover the block with stucco or siding. These blocks get steel reinforcing bars and can be a very strong and rigid construction. This is not cheap especially in comparison to wood frame construction. It should be cheaper then poured in place concrete. This is noncombustible fire resistant construction.
Steel Construction for Hurricane Home Design:
Steel frame houses are becoming a little more common now. These houses are actually built similarly to wood frame houses. They are using stud walls as bearing walls for the house, although the detailing is different and these houses are more expensive. One of my favorite aspects of metal houses is that the house is non combustible. Remember wood is flammable and actually becomes fuel for a fire. As an architect I always try to go with noncombustible fireproof materials whenever possible. We have done several fire repair jobs and fire rebuilds at our company so I take this very seriously. The downsides are that metal frame construction is more expensive than wood, it takes a little longer to build, and you may not find people who know how to do it properly. Also you need to know how to properly insulate these houses especially if you are in a cold climate. Take a look at one of our metal frame houses under construction on an elevated concrete slab.
Wood Frame Hurricane House Construction:
Wood frame houses are the cheapest and most low quality houses you can build. These are the most common houses you will find in America. I am not a huge fan of wood frame construction because it is flammable. Wood frame will be your most affordable option. Wood frame houses can be built quickly and you will have no trouble finding a contractor to do this type of construction in the United States. If you are building a wood frame house I might recommend building with fire rated construction at least 1 hr fire rating (check local codes). You may want to consider installing fire sprinklers as well if you can afford it. Here is a photo of a wood frame house we built in the flood zone. This was a Sandy rebuild. Of the 9 super Storm Sandy rebuilds we did only this one was wood frame. With wood frame we recommend structural sheathing and hurricane strapping. Not one or the other BOTH.
Alternative Materials for Hurricane Proof Homes
You can always consider new materials and alternative materials for building a new hurricane resistant house. Alternative or new materials will always be more expensive then traditional materials. They may be less available and you may have a hard time finding people to build the home.
One alternative material would be fiberglass. Below is a fiberglass house prototype I designed. Fiberglass is an excellent material for hurricanes. It is strong and durable. If anything impacts fiberglass it will just bounce off. If you have a high budget you may consider having a fiberglass house manufactured for your new home.
Hurricane Strapping and Construction Details
Hurricane Proof House Strapping
Lateral forces are a major problem in hurricanes and flood zones. Proper construction detailing is essential. As an architect, me and my engineers are very familiar with this type of detailing.
Hurricane proof homes need shear walls and strapping. Shear walls prevent the house from tipping over. Strapping prevents it from coming apart at the seems and having parts ripped off. We always have an architect or engineer come out to the job site and inspects the details before the house is finished. Here are a few photos of some examples on a few houses we did in the flood zone.
Hurricane Proof House Products
There are lots of different products that go into building a Hurricane resistant home. Make sure these products are hurricane rated especially your windows and doors. I cannot emphasize the importance of hurricane rated windows and doors. There are lots of different manufacturers you can look at and I promise you will be able to find some in all price ranges. Windows are expensive but it is worth the money.
Storm Proof House Design
I cannot emphasize the importance products and materials play on storm proof house design. Storm proofing means every aspect of the house is ready windows, walls, roofs, everything.
Backup power may be a really good idea. We recommend solar panels that are properly fastened to the roof this can be capable of providing your full power needs all year round. Make sure the installer has them tied down very well so they don’t blow off in high winds or a hurricane. Alternatively we have used natural gas generators that automatically kick in when the power goes down solely for emergency back up.
There is no doubt that climate change is causing extreme weather conditions. It is also true that human activity is causing climate change. If you are going to build a house make sure to do so with sustainability in mind. Please look at another article we wrote on Sustainable Home Design. Build a house that does not add to climate change. Build a home that achieves balance with our environment.
Planning: Building a House Can Be Stressful so Breathe
You may have just had your home destroyed by a flood or hurricane. If so I can’t imagine the stress and emotional strain you are under. You need to prepare yourself for a long road. Even if you aren’t rebuilding. Maybe you are building for the first time. Building a home is a lot of work. There will be headaches and anxiety. Take it one step at a time and try not to get overwhelmed. Take a deep breath and make sure you are mentally prepared for your journey.
In the words of Mr. Miyagi “Don’t forget to breathe, very important.”
I wish you the best of luck with your storm proof house design.
Thank You for reading our Blog Post on Hurricane Proof House Design.
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Author Jorge Fontan AIA
This post was written by Jorge Fontan, a Registered Architect and owner of Fontan Architecture.