The Shape of Your Home Can Determine If It’s Hurricane Proof

A recent report from the Journal of Architectural Engineering examined the association between the design of low-rise buildings, such as houses, and their ability to withstand extreme winds.

The study was led by civil engineer Dr. Rima Taher, special lecturer at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). According to her research, certain shapes of homes and their roof types are better able to endure the damaging wind gusts that are associated with hurricanes.

The bulk of this work was conducted over the course of 2 years in which Dr. Taher evaluated the data from research institutions that analyzed what types of designs, construction methods, and structure materials were optimal for resisting high-wind weather events.

According to the NJIT press release, Dr. Taher said that “Although I’d like to say that there is a simple and economical solution for housing that won’t fail or collapse in the perfect storm, such information does not yet exist.” She added that thanks to the work of wind engineers and scientists, the design and construction of future homes should make building safer for people and save billions for the government and industry.

As part of her research, Dr. Taher collaborated with wind scientists from the Center for Building Science and Technology (CSTB) in France. This facility specializes in testing reduced-scaled model homes within wind tunnels to try to determine an archetype dwelling that would be able to withstand cyclonic-level winds.

The ideal building, according to their tests, is square-type plan on an elevated structure with an open foundation. This optimal home, would also have a hip roof and would be outfitted with a central shaft displaying force-reducing aerodynamic features. Formal evaluation showed that this type of residence would be highly competent under the stress of soaring winds as compared to other common home designs.

As a result of this research, plans are already under way to begin construction of this “hurricane-resistant” home in Reunion located in the West Indian Ocean.

Dr. Taher also recommended the following:

The more sides (walls), the better
Homes with hexagonal or octagonal floor plans with multiple-panel roofs displayed the lowest wind loads.

Slant that roof please
Homes with multiple slope roofs (hip-type design) tended to fair better in high winds than gable (2 slope) roofs.

An algebra angle
Roofs with 30 degree slopes exhibited the best results under hurricane-stress winds.

Connections, connections and more connections
Because structural failure tends to be progressive, homes that fair better are the ones that have strong connections between the structure and its foundation and connections literally between all of the walls.

Aerodynamic corners with short overhangs
Because the ridge of a roof can act like a wing, having aerodynamic edges that alleviate local pressures will also increase wind resistance. The roof overhang should also not be longer than 20 inches.

Source: New Jersey Institute of Technology/press release:

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