26 Jul Exploring Hurricane-Resistant Construction in Puerto Rico
Hurricanes are arguably the most destructive natural disasters in our region. Irma, Maria, Harvey, and other noteworthy storms made their way into the Destruction Hall of Fame in recent times. In addition to disrupting financial markets, Category 4 and 5 hurricanes can easily destroy homes and commercial buildings, altering the lives of their inhabitants forever. With reports predicting rising costs for hurricane damage and an increase in storm intensity in the coming years, disaster safety is more crucial than ever.
However, advancements in construction technology have produced materials with specific properties and minimum assembly requirements which have passed simulated scenario tests and ultimately have been incorporated to Building Codes. Applying these to new building construction as well as to existing buildings will improve the building’s resistance to strong winds, flying debris, and flooding. For example, to make buildings hurricane resistant, architects provide design solutions by taking into consideration the building’s geographical region, building’s positioning on the site, materials selection and building elements connections among other key factors. Properly designed and built concrete structures have proven to be stronger in withstanding hurricane-force winds. However, wooden structures may be just as strong if designed and built with the correct wood elements and connectors. In any case, owners should make sure that the building envelope should be completely sealed, including a sealed/ leak-free roof, caulked window and door openings, and unobstructed roof downspouts and overflows prior to a hurricane event in order to avoid water from penetrating into the interior. This will aid in keeping the building’s interior free of mold and mildew, which may cause building damages and may impose long-lasting health risks.
When referring to the economic impact of hurricane-resistant construction, exterior building enclosure elements such as impact-resistant windows and doors may increase the initial overall construction cost. However, if building owners were to evaluate the life cycle cost of these, they would, in fact, realize the early implementation of them would provide long term cost savings
While the technology to build hurricane-resistant buildings has improved greatly, the demand for it has yet to catch up, which is a shame since the threat of tropical storm damage is a constant reality in our Island. Part of the reason is that people are not aware of cost-effective ways to strengthen and improve vulnerable portions of their buildings so that they may withstand these natural disasters. While hurricane-resistant buildings may be estimated to have a higher initial construction cost, construction industry leaders are working hard to raise awareness of the importance of this type of construction in order to protect lives and provide long term cost savings to owners. Meanwhile, select industry leaders are working locally to build affordable hurricane-resistant homes.
After years of record damage from hurricanes, construction companies and owners alike are increasingly looking to fortify their structures. While it is not yet possible to create a completely hurricane-proof building, these innovations and materials bring us closer to protecting our homes this season. If you’d like to learn more or partner with a firm with long-term vision and expert building in their approach, CONTACT US.