Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were dramatic weather events that left much destruction in their wake. Some buildings were completely destroyed while others were much better at sustaining hurricane winds and water. In fact, the difference was not luck but in the various building materials and designs that were used in construction. Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF) is consistently the best material to use but there are competing materials like wood and masonry. Cities and residents should definitely consider ICF. It can stand up to wind reaching 200 miles per hour and is resistant to water damage. In contrast, wood usually starts to wear with wind around 80 or 100 miles per hour while masonry is slightly stronger around 120 miles per hour. Neither of these materials is as water resistant. For example, Harrington Custom Homes is a Houston area developer with many individuals homes to its credit in the region. Hurricane Harvey laid waste to the city and destroyed many buildings. Interestingly, the Harrington homes made out much better with little wind damage. Although some were built in floodplains and had flooding, the walls and foundation remained intact. The flooding did not destroy the exterior which prevented even more water damage to the homes. In total, water damage caused about $70 billion in damages to the Houston area and another $49 billion to Florida from Hurricane Irma. Other builders are noticing this durability and planning to take further steps to use ICF materials and protect their properties. For example, a 220 unit project in Charleston, South Carolina called 17 South decided to use ICF materials for construction. The project made it through the storm with only minor issues, and was in much better shape than surrounding facilities. Overall, it is sound financial practice to improve building design for several reasons. Firstly, the insurance on the buildings will be less expensive with stronger materials and more professional designs. Secondly, the cost to repair damages will be much lower in the event of a serious storm. Lastly, the materials will last longer over time and will not need to be replaced as often. The investment in ICF will pay for itself over and over again. With the severity of these storms we’ve seen in 2017, it is likely that building codes will change in areas heavily affected by natural events. As these codes take effect, we will start to see a shift to better building materials that keep up and make our homes and workplaces safer. Although the Southern states in the US are affected by hurricanes, every region in our country has natural phenomenons that traditional building materials, especially wood, do not have a solutions for. Whether it is hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes or even termites, we need to build smarter, safer structures. ICFs are a big part of the answer the ensuring long lasting, durable buildings.

ICF home that withstood hurricane Irma. Photo courtesy of FoxBlocks.
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