If you've ever experienced a hurricane, the idea of a hurricane proof house may sound like pure fantasy. The strength of Mother Nature is just incredible, and it's hard to believe any structure can stand up to a direct hit from a hurricane.
Well, it's true. There is a form of construction called insulating concrete forms, or ICF, that has been shown to stand up to wind speeds of 140 miles an hour.
ICF blocks, which have a layer of polystyrene foam on both sides of the forms, are permanent cast-in-place concrete walls.
The homeowner gets the added advantage of the insulating factors of the foam when the forms are left in place.
But before we discuss this any further, let's identify the two biggest dangers during a hurricane:
1. High winds 2. Flying debris
ICF construction, impact-resistant windows and/or storm shutters, and properly built roofs and roofing connections can create a house that's truly hurricane proof.
The Hurricane Proof House
Recently, civil engineers at the University of Florida built a "hurricane house" that can withstand winds up to 140 mph. ICF was used to build the home. The director of the University's Research and Education Center in Fort Lauderdale, Van Waddill, said “This hurricane house demonstrates that it is possible to build a home that will come through a category 4 or 5 hurricane with little or no damage.”
There are 3 key components in any hurricane proof house: 1. The roofing system: The roof is one of the most critical components in any high-wind storm. 2. Windows: The strength of the windows is also critical, as the integrity of the entire home can be breached if the windows are broken. 3. Protection from flying debris: The biggest hazard to homeowners' safety during a hurricane or tornado is the debris that is driven by high winds.
You can learn more about how hurricane proof house plans address #1 and #2
Read on to learn how ICF homes can address issue #3.
Recently, engineers at Texas Tech University conducted tests that compared the impact resistance of concrete wall construction to conventionally framed walls. They created conditions that simulated a tornado with 250 mph winds. This speed is greater than 99% of all tornadoes in the US and much higher than winds speeds in even the worst (Category 5) hurricanes.
They found that concrete wall systems (such as ICFs and concrete blocks), had the strength and mass to resist the impact of wind-driven debris. However, the wood-framed walls did not stop the debris from going through the walls completely. Click on the video below to see this test in action.
Storm Surge and Flooding The primary protection from storm surge is to place the home sufficiently above sea level. The foundation may also need to be elevated, depending on the flood zone of the property. ICF construction is also helpful with flooding in that water won't damage concrete the way it damages and rots wood-frame construction.
The Next Challenge: Tornadoes Although hurricanes seem like a daunting challenge in themselves, tornadoes are another related issue that must be considered. This is because tornadoes can form when hurricanes make landfall. This occurs as the hurricane's ground-level winds slow down, while the upper-level winds keep their momentum. Learn more about building a tornado proof home