Building Homes That Survive Natural Disasters

Building homes that survive natural disasters

The recent hurricanes have been a sobering reminder that man’s creations don’t hold up against Mother Nature’s fury. They’ve also served as important reminders that builders need to consider the likelihood of natural disasters when constructing new homes. Here’s how you can build resilient homes that can withstand the unexpected.

A Long-standing Issue

While many point toward global warming as a catalyst for increasing natural disasters, builders have been dealing with these problems for decades. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, there has been an average of 120 major disasters throughout the United States every year since 1996. From wildfires and earthquakes to hurricanes and floods, there are all sorts of disasters that can affect a home. Even heavy rains and powerful winds can wreak substantial havoc, especially if a home isn’t fortified to withstand them.

To ease buyer concern and increase a property’s allure, builders need to understand the risks of specific natural disasters, based on specific regions. They also need to know the local codes and the proper ways to improve a new home’s resiliency against individual threats.

Earthquakes: An earthquake-resistant home should have very good symmetry and be made from flexible materials. For instance, steel and wood offer much greater flexibility than masonry, unreinforced concrete and stucco. Strategically placed beams can also be used to transfer energy of a building’s sway during an earthquake. Foundations should either include flexible cushions to absorb energy or layered plates that allow for sliding movements.

High winds: While few structures are able to withstand the high winds associated with tornadoes and hurricanes, there are some things a builder can do to reduce damage. According to research out of New Jersey Institute of Technology, certain home shapes and roofs are better at withstanding high winds and hurricanes. This includes square floor plans with multiple-panel roofs that have a 30-degree slope. Builders should also connect roofs to walls and ensure strong connections between the structure and foundation. This is because structural failure tends to move in a progressive pattern that can stem from just one weak element.

Fires: In regions where wildfires are common, builders should consider their materials carefully. Flame-resistant building materials can make a huge difference in the survival of a structure. Roofing should be made of clay, metal, asphalt, cement tile or composition shingle. Walls should consist of masonry, stucco, plaster or cement. Windows should be dual pane, tempered glass, and all vents and openings should be covered with metal screens to keep debris from accumulating.

Floods: Elevation is the single most critical characteristic of a flood-resistant home. In some instances, however, builders may need to add floodwalls to protect homes in especially troublesome areas. Sealants and waterproof membranes can also be used to make a home’s walls watertight.

Understanding the Region

While most people attribute specific natural disasters to certain parts of the country, things aren’t always so cut and dried. For instance, in recent years, builders have had to start reinforcing against earthquakes in places such as Oklahoma and Texas, which experienced significant increase in seismic activity in the wake of the fracking boom. With this in mind, it’s important for builders to thoroughly investigate the risk of specific natural disasters – not just in the region – but in the local community. With 37 years of forensic data pertaining to geographic claim activity, as well as local experts around the country, 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty can help builders get a grasp on what to expect.

Once they’ve assessed the risk, builders then need to discuss options with homebuyers or make command decisions on their own. This involves weighing the cost of improving a new home’s resiliency against the potential cost of catastrophic damage from a natural disaster.

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