Hurricane-Resistant Building Designs
Preparing for the Worst to Achieve the Best
Hurricane-resistant building designs are revolutionizing the world of new construction. As adverse weather events continue to grow in intensity and number, storm-resistant construction is becoming more important. While many natural disasters can be anticipated, none can be prevented. Inclement and even destructive weather are part of life. Sadly, when hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters do happen, many buildings are unable to withstand them. When buildings fail from natural disasters or bad weather, it signals one thing above all else: They need a stronger, more durable structure to stand up against the elements. This is where Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) buildings come into play.
Insulated Concrete Forms and Hurricanes
An ICF is a hurricane-resistant building design that withstands more impact from winds and water damage. ICFs have become the standard for storm-resistant construction in recent years because of their superior durability. In fact, many Insulated Concrete Form buildings survived the wind and storm surge of Hurricane Katrina, one of the United States’ worst natural disasters.
“Safety was a secondary consideration when we chose to build with ICFs,” said ICF homeowner Randy Robbins. “For us, the greatest benefit was its energy efficiency. Yet we’re alive today because of these walls.”
Because of its use of hurricane-resistant building designs, Robbins’ home was protected from tornado-force winds with speeds up to 157 mph.
Robbins is not alone. In many cases, builders or owners may have initially chosen ICFs for their energy efficiency. However, the ability to withstand hurricane-force winds and water damage turned out to be the most significant benefit. This durability is what makes choosing storm-resistant construction one of the best decisions homeowners can make.
What Are Insulated Concrete Forms?
ICFs are an innovative alternative to traditional wood or light-gauge steel building frames. Because it is constructed using durable concrete, an ICF building is an effective hurricane-resistant building design. Wood-framed buildings can generally hold up against 120 mph winds. In contrast, ICF buildings can withstand anywhere from 200 to 300 mph winds, more than double wood’s capacity.
ICFs and Hurricanes
FEMA recommends that storm shelters be constructed using ICFs. This alone is a testament to just how powerful ICF buildings are and how much they can help builders prevent disaster. ICFs’ hurricane-resistant building design is unparalleled in modern construction and gives the best chance for occupants’ safety.
One of the major factors in a building’s wind resistance is whether it uses a continuous load path from the roof to the foundation. This lets the structure transfer wind uplift and shear loads safely to the ground level. ICFs do this by using a wall-to-foundation connection to bolster vertical reinforcing steel bars. Specialized hardware is used for roof and floor connections, while roof trusses are attached directly to the concrete or using straps connected to metal plates inside the concrete. Optional ledger systems can reinforce the connection between the wall and floor for an even more effective hurricane-resistant building design.
ICFs and Earthquakes
ICFs are also being implemented to protect builders and owners from earthquake risk. Softwoods have been used for years since their lighter weight gives them an advantage against seismic shifts. However, softwoods often have issues with bracing and structural connections. This has often been the undoing of softwood buildings in earthquake zones. Concrete resists compression forces that push other materials together. Meanwhile, reinforced steel keeps the structure from coming apart and cracking. Double rebar curtains are often added in areas with especially high seismic activity for extra protection.
ICFs and Flooding
Concrete actually gets stronger in the presence of moisture. This is a major advantage since it means ICFs suffer virtually no damage even when submerged in floodwaters. Wood, on the other hand, is vulnerable to mold, mildew, and rot. Concrete keeps its composition over time, even under adverse conditions. Often, all that concrete needs after submersion in a flood is a pressure wash. This gives additional peace of mind to those in flood zones or considering hurricane-resistant building designs.
Hurricane-resistant building designs offer an array of other benefits and advantages. These alone are often enough to convince builders to use ICFs in their construction.
Lower Insurance Premiums. Insurance quotes for concrete risk builders can be anywhere from 22 to 72 percent cheaper than for builders using wooden frames. Commercial building owners generally see a reduction by 14 to 65 percent in their premium costs. Insurance companies continue to incentivize ICFs as disaster-ready construction practices become more prevalent.
Higher Building Resale Value. Investing in storm-resistant construction practices from the beginning can pay off immensely if you decide to sell. Among other aspects, building appraisers consider storm-resistant construction in making their appraisals. This is even truer in areas with a high risk of natural disasters.
Financial Benefits. ICFs can create additional incentives from tax credits, utility discounts, reduced mortgage and financing costs, favorable permits, and more. Often, these differ in each state and locality, meaning your area could have unique benefits not listed here.
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