Home > Insurance Blog > Indestructible homes: how disaster resistant building practices are mitigating losses
Following Hurricane Michael little remained in Mexico Beach Florida. Destruction was the only obvious landscape feature surrounding this beautiful beach community. In surveying photos of the damaged community, however, one thing sticks out. In the middle of the massive destruction stands one large house, known as the Sand Palace. This home is a three-story, four-bedroom, and four-and-a-half-bath vacation rental. The obvious question remains… why did this home survive the massive storm while the others did not?
The answer is simple. The construction of this home involved one primary goal… hurricane resistance. The purpose of this article is to review how home design and construction practices can help to mitigate potential damage in the event of a natural disaster.
The design of a hurricane-resistant home depends on many factors that should be considered together in order to maximize the hurricane resistance of a home. Below are a few design practices.
This house plan was created for social charity ORLI’s (Operation Resilient Living & Innovation Plus, LLC ) Global Design Ideas Competition, aimed at helping neighborhoods affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Architects and engineers consider these factors when building a new home in order to maximize its resistance to storms. For existing homes, upgrades can significantly improve a home’s resistance to storms. In fact, homeowners with homes inland should consider these features in their homes, particularly in areas susceptible to strong thunderstorms, tornados, or hail.
The most obvious negative factor associated with building or upgrading a hurricane-resistant home involves the cost. Most experts indicate the cost of a hurricane-resistant home is 15% – 20% more than a typical home. Despite the cost, however, studies show that over time, the improvements will make an impact.
In fact, a recent study completed by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Risk Center and the National Center for Atmospheric Research focused on storm-related building code improvements in coastal Florida. This research showed that homes built in coastal areas of Florida, after the implementation of the code improvements, suffered 64 percent less damage than homes built prior to the code improvements. The study used realized insured loss data across 10 years from more than 1 million homes. Loss data for the study included seven hurricanes, three of which were Category 3 or higher. Therefore, it is clear that the implementation of hurricane-resistant construction practices has a direct impact on potential damage losses.
As noted above, research clearly indicates that hurricane-resistant building practices lead to a decrease in losses to homeowners and insurance companies alike. Many insurance companies offer discounts between 5% and 35% for storm-resistant changes, such as storm-resistant shutters and new strong roof components.
While hurricane and storm-resistant building practices can protect a home from the hazards associated with a hurricane, tornado, flood or thunderstorm, other natural disasters exist. Homeowners in certain parts of the country need to think about disasters such as earthquakes and fires. Most notably in California where the potential for earthquakes and wildfires is prevalent.
In a similar vein to storm-resistant construction practices, both earthquakes and fires have specific design and construction practices that help in the event of a disaster. For example, below is a diagram showing the dos and don’ts of fire-resistant building practices.
Homeowners should know the potential hazards associated with their home’s location and then determine which actions can make the most significant impact on the protection of their home. Contractors and builders in different parts of the country specialize in various building techniques that consider the hazards unique to those parts of the country.
Each state, however, uses its own rules to regulate building practices. Insurance Broker, Willis Towers Watson, recently published ratings from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) after it released the latest edition of “Rating the States”. This is an assessment of residential building code and enforcement systems for life safety and property protection in hurricane-prone regions. Virginia and Florida are two states with the more stringent storm-related building codes. However, homeowners should not rely on state building codes to protect their homes from natural disasters.
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In considering making improvements to a home, owners need to consider the image of the Sand Palace home after Hurricane Michael. The destruction surrounding the Sand Palace should remind us that home design and construction matter. When it comes to the protection of life and property from natural disasters, small improvements in home design and building practices can make a significant impact.Filed Under: Insurance Claims, Smart Home, Weather Catastrophe