Hurricane Irma swept through Florida with all the fury of Mother Nature having a bad day. The destruction left within her wake will require long-term recovery action, but for all of its wrath, Southwest Florida still withstood Irma’s high winds and rain better than Miami did Hurricane Andrew. It is a blessing that we can partially attribute to today’s architectural standards, as well as the state’s improved codes and preparations.
How Hurricane Andrew Changed Florida Architecture
Known as the most costly natural disaster to strike the state of Florida, Hurricane Andrew’s catastrophic impact left a lasting impact when it struck the east coast in 1992. With the majority of damage caused by high winds, the Sunshine State was practically shut down for months. Approximately 63,000 homes and 82,000 businesses were destroyed, as well as thousands of traffic signals, miles of powerlines, and 3,000 watermains.
This led to a significant revision of the building codes. Four years later, in 1996, Florida Governor Chiles established the Florida Building Codes Study Commission whose purpose was to assess building codes and make amendments that would improve the resiliency of new structures. By 1998, the Florida Building Code was established, and in 2002 it was officially in effect.
Attributes of Hurricane Resistant Architecture
When you’re constructing a home or business in Florida, it’s important to consider what kind of weather conditions it may endure. That includes understanding the location and the risk of storm surge when planning the building’s design.
While Florida building codes have significantly improved since the early nineties, following them won’t guarantee your home’s safety in a hurricane. It only makes it more resilient than homes and businesses built prior to the updated standards.
Architects can incorporate specific design elements and details to help fortify your structure against natural disasters. Some of these include:
Choose Your Roofing Wisely
One of the first things to go in a hurricane is the roof of a structure. While Florida banned stapled roofs when they improved their building codes post-Andrew, there are still certain choices that are more vulnerable to high winds than others. Tile roofs in particular are prone to flying off during high winds.
Consider the use of hurricane clips and limit your overhang to 20 inches to prevent uplift in heavy winds. Roofs with a 30 degree slope and multiple slopes also tend to perform better against hurricane winds than gabled or two slope roofs.
Elevate Structures Vulnerable to Flooding
Coastal homes and businesses are some of the most desirable pieces of real estate, but with it comes the risk of storm surges and flooding that should not be ignored. When you’re planning the architecture for a structure near the coast or a body of water, creating an elevated design on an open foundation can significantly reduce your risk of flooding. Just ensure that the foundation piles penetrate deep into the soil and are reinforced with bracing in order decrease the likelihood of scour.
Choose the Right Shape for Your Building
When designing a floor plan, choosing a square, hexagonal, or even octagonal shape can make your structure more resilient against hurricane conditions. Rounder designs tend to withstand best because the wind can’t build up enough pressure to destroy the structure’s integrity. You also want to make sure your structure and foundation have strong connections to avoid collapse.
Equip Your Home with Hurricane Shutters
Hurricane shutters are extremely helpful in protecting your home from projectiles thrown about by high winds. You can purchase designs suited for your home’s structure, protecting sensitive windows and doorways from debris that can not only damage your home but injure anyone inside.
South Florida Architecture is a premier architectural firm located in Estero, Florida. For years, they have provided innovative, aesthetic, and structural sound designs for residential, industrial, and commercial buildings. Explore www.SFArchitectureinc.com to learn more.