What Homebuilders Should Know About Disaster-Resistant Housing

When contracting in areas that are prone to natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, and tornados, it is important to understand what makes a building disaster resistant. There are a number of things that builders do to make structures disaster resistant, and you should know about them if your company is planning to move into or bidding in an area where these things are a concern, or where regulations mandate new construction to adhere to certain disaster-proof building codes.

 

The key element to building a formidable disaster-resistant building lies in a building material so simple you might wonder if we're even serious. The safest, most sturdy disaster-resistant buildings are those that employ the use of reinforced concrete as the key strengthening component within the construction. There are, however, other things to consider. 

Tornadoes, Hurricanes, and Wind

Concrete does a great job of resisting the effects of tornadoes, hurricanes, and wind. Many people discovered this fact the hard way after Hurricane Katrina, when many homes were obliterated while others remained mostly intact. The latter group almost invariably had concrete built into the framework. 

Previous hurricane investigations have also revealed that a number of other building materials also proved to be a good defense against powerful winds, while others proved to not have the strength to withstand the elements.

 

Asphalt shingles fail often, mostly due to the holes created in them by staple guns. Nailed-in shingles fair slightly better if they are well placed. Clay roof tiles do a better job of resisting wind but have a tendency to shatter. The most notable damage done to concrete shingles usually has to do with flying debris, but of the three, concrete has the least tendency to shatter or break apart.

Gabled roofs fail more often than hip roofs, although gables that are constructed out of concrete masonry, which fairs far better than frame construction. 

As for walls, concrete block is the clear winner in maintaining a building's structural integrity during and after a natural disaster.

Flooding

While it cannot prevent a flood from happening, concrete does not succumb to water damage. Even before it dries out, concrete gains in strength with the infusion of moisture. Even then, the level of absorption is very low.

Even after being submerged for long periods of time, concrete typically remains undamaged. In fact, concrete only contributes to moisture-related issues if it happens to be enclosed in construction system that allows the moisture to become trapped between the concrete and other types of building material. A common example of this comes in the form of vinyl wallpaper. It is never a good idea to attach it to concrete.

It is also worth noting that after several recent natural disasters involving flooding, a company in the United Kingdom has begun development on a new type of permeable concrete that is designed to absorb water at a high rate and volume in an effort to protect the greater structure from damage.

Early tests are proving favorable, and this new material is certain to make an impact on construction in flood-prone areas in the future.

Earthquakes 

Simply put, buildings with concrete-fortified steel frameworks have been observed to be capable of withstanding some of the deadliest forces that occur in nature

Structures that are designed and built from the ground up, using concrete and steel as the key materials in combating the effects of earthquakes, will almost invariably out-perform similarly sized and shaped structures that rely on other materials and engineering considerations to do the same job. Many earthquake-prone areas now include stipulations that mandate that all new construction include concrete-reinforced framework in order for the project to be up to spec. 

It is worth noting, however, that concrete alone is not as effective a deterrent to earthquake damage.

There are also numerous other considerations regarding building design that also affect the structure's ability to hold during a quake. 

Disaster-Resistant Building Best Practices

If you employ best practices in your construction business, you can almost always rely on concrete as the safest, most durable material available. Coupled with reinforced steel, it provides the three most important elements of an earthquake-resistant structure: ductility, strength, and stiffness.