Hurricanes come and go, leaving destruction in their wake. Last year there were 17 named storms in the Atlantic region, with four major hurricanes making landfall on the US. Homes in these areas accumulated a combined $282.16 billion USD worth of damages. The home-owners that come out with the least damage in these dangerous situations are those who have hurricane-proofed their homes.
The buildings which sustained the most damage were not always those in the primary flooding and hurricane areas, but those unable to combat the winds and rain. For architects conceptualizing a home within a hurricane zone or sub-zone, there are always a few considerations for homes and buildings that hold up best in hurricanes.
Round Designs Do Better Than Traditional Hard Angles
Traditionally, homes are built with 90 degree angles and strong corners. These types of buildings tend to have a boxed look, even when modern design breaks up the severity of the angles. Yet, when it comes to hurricane prone areas, the best architecture steps away from tradition.
Just as with automotive and nautical design, a curved surface diverts wind around the surface.
Just as with automotive and nautical design, a curved surface diverts wind around the surface. Consequently, if the sides of the building are rounded, the hurricane winds are more likely to wrap around the building as opposed to push against the building. This small detail substantially reduces the risk of damage to the home.
Curvature to funnel the wind into certain behaviors doesn’t just apply to the walls and roof, as the terrain is also modeled to have a curve. Ensure that when you design the landscaping of the property that the curve redirects the wind away from the home. You do not want the curve to push air up and against the property.
Modern designs for hurricane prone areas are seeing that the dome houses pose less of a risk than the boxed look. Geodesic domes are fairly new to the residential architectural market. However, home owners are finding that the dome is perfect for combating inclement weather, specifically high winds and rain, and that the buildings have a high level of self-sustainability. If you are not ready to go with a dome design, consider curving the roof or build a curved retainer wall to help navigate the winds and rain away from the property.
The Misconceptions of Stilts
If you visit Florida and other areas where there are frequent hurricanes, you will see that there are several buildings on stilts. There’s a misconception that stilts are the best means to combat a hurricane and flood waters. Yet, this is not essentially the case. Stilts do provide a high level of protection against rising water. However, because the house is lifted, it is more prone to swaying in the wind, especially when those winds reach tropical and hurricane force.
For architecture featuring stilts in storm-prone areas, the exposed stilts should be designed away from the costal side of the property. For extra protection, a flood panel or concrete wall should be placed on the coastal-facing side of the building (again curved is best), to protect the building’s stilts from wind damage, secure the building from swaying, and of course to add an aesthetic dynamic to the house.
Homes in hurricane prone areas require tougher materials in the construction. Generally, high impact windows will be used in the design. These windows are specifically designed for higher wind. When high impact windows are not used, you may find that the architect or construction engineer opts for double or thicker-paned glass. Siding for the house may be strong panel, metal siding, or thicker synthetic. It is common for the siding of buildings in these zones to be flatter than that of buildings in other areas, so as to reduce the likelihood of tearing off the building.
In addition to stronger materials below the roof, hurricane prone areas design the roofing system differently than buildings which are not in high risk areas. For example, you might find that the roofs in hurricane prone areas are multi-sloped. Hip roofs with four slopes will perform better than gabled roofs with only two slopes. Additionally, you may find that the traditional triangle trussed roof is abandoned for a curved roof design.
Regarding the material of the roof, hurricane-prone areas tend to use galvanized metal over shingle. Shingles have a high risk of tearing off, causing damage to the home and surrounding properties. Metal, when installed properly, lowers this risk as there are fewer surfaces for the wind to catch and be pulled up.
While you will always have a variety of sizes on buildings, regardless of the zone, hurricane-prone areas are more likely to have one story buildings than multi-story homes. Ironically, you will find that businesses in hurricane prone areas are multi-level hotels for the most part. Of course, these high-rise areas are constructed to high standards , but the visual contrast still remains.
Whether you are designing for a home or a business, it is always best practice to check with the local zoning for regulations and standards on building for a hurricane danger zone.
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