Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hurricane-resistant Green Homes


With hurricane Ike potentially following in the path of hurricane Gustav, some people on the Gulf coast may be looking for housing that can take on a disaster and not only remain intact but remain habitable with it's own back-up systems for essential services. As I continue to do research for my own, future-proof, disaster-resistant dream home, I was directed to the StalwartBuilt Homes web site by a Florida Realtor.

StalwartBuilt homes are mostly factory assembled so on-site construction can be accomplished in 30 to 60 days. They feature well-insulated air-tight wall and roof assemblies with controlled ventilation, heat-reflective metal roofing, geothermal heat pump systems, unvented attic assemblies and a number of other features that qualify these homes for LEED for Homes and Energy Star certifications and make it possible to achieve the Architecture 2030 Challenge today. They are built with chases and other features to allow for the future addition of alternative energy systems, such as photovoltaic and wind. StalwartBuilt constructed the first LEED Platinum, net-zero-energy home in Florida. Hurricane-resistant construction considers wind uplift, wind-driven moisture, penetration by flying debris and flooding. A hurricane-resistant home on a barrier island subject to storm surge would also be up on pilings above maximum flood elevation, for example. Alex Wilson, editor of the indispensable Environmental Building News, introduced the concept of "passive survivability " as another important consideration for disaster-resistant construction which he defined as "the ability of a building to maintain critical life-support conditions for its occupants if services such as power, heating fuel, or water are lost for an extended period." A building designed to provide these services when municipal infrastructure is down may be a life saver. If you design for this potential with solutions like rainwater capture and storage and alternative energy systems, you will enjoy peace of mind, but also lower operating costs. The economics of this premium construction look better when you take into consideration potential savings from insurers, lenders, tax incentives, utility company rebates and lower monthly utility bills. As the cost of home energy continues to climb and storms continue to increase in frequency and strength, look for demand for this type of construction to grow faster than typically constructed new homes.

As a former homebuilder turned architect, I would prefer something a bit more custom and modern than the StalwartBuilt home offerings. My current favorite disaster-resistant building envelope is one that's been around since Roman times, concrete. Insulated Concrete Forms are a promising construction method that employs permanent insulated forms that facilitate placement of ample vertical and horizontal steel-reinforcement in the concrete pour. They provide an extremely wind-resistant, air-tight envelope with excellent thermal performance. A typical ICF home requires 50% less heating and cooling energy than typical construction. We've designed a net-zero-energy library with that system that bid at $200 per square foot in Southern Indiana this summer. This system is also very compatible with earth-sheltered and/or garden roof systems and also provides excellent resistance to fire, insects and noise. My current research is on finding forms and concrete mixes that are more environmentally sustainable. Cement manufacturing is currently highly energy intensive, and the typical plastic foams used in the forms have some issues. I am encouraged by development of alternative form materials and work to manufacture cement at low temperatures, mimicking the way marine animals make their shells and other research that suggests that concrete may be used to sequester carbon. More on those topics in a later post . . .

See also previous posts: Hybrid Power for Your Home, Future-Proof Buildings

4 comments:

Roofing Contractors Edinburgh said...

Nice approach to 'energy aware' homes. And very much needed. Roofing Contractors Edinburgh

Andre2812 said...

That really looks great, we encourage people to use used pallet racking too in order to reduce the wastage of materials.

Adiva Graphics said...

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Hurricane resistant homes

Alamgir Ahmed said...

I really like the fact that hurricane resistant structures
manufacturers use their resources wisely. That is something that the majority of builders just can’t do.