The story at a glance
- Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida on Wednesday after hitting Cuba and knocking out the island’s power grid.
- As this extreme weather becomes more common, the need for technology to protect homes from hurricanes and wildfires becomes more pressing.
- Technologies are emerging, from sturdy solar panels to 3D printed walls.
Hurricane Ian in Florida and its predecessor, Hurricane Fiona, caused mudslides and flooding in Puerto Rico last week, causing growing damage, a reminder of the urgent need to figure out how to protect our homes from extreme weather events that scientists have warned about. Rising global temperatures have made them even more powerful.
Well-insulated buildings and those made of concrete are more likely to survive extreme weather events such as Hurricane Ian, said Lionel Scharly, a strategic building consultant at Real Estate Bees.
That’s why in places like Puerto Rico, which are often hit by hurricanes, homes are often constructed of concrete.
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Scharly added that home builders should also consider the shape of their homes when retrofitting their buildings to deal with hurricanes. Round buildings are better for hurricane-prone areas because they reduce wind pressure, and the 30-degree roof slope also helps the home reduce wind pressure, making it more resistant to strong storm winds.
While investing in sturdy building materials and adopting hurricane-resistant windows and doors will help people weather stronger storms, building experts are looking for other ways to make homes better suited to the challenges posed by extreme weather.
In Puerto Rico, Marvel Architects designed eco-friendly homes to better withstand the effects of hurricanes and all the complications that come with storms. Not only are the model buildings built with reinforced walls, the homes are also equipped with solar panels that channel energy to generators, freeing residents from dependence on the island’s electrical grid.
Construction technology firm ICON has also been tasked with trying to figure out how to build homes that are more hurricane-friendly. The company built four 3D-printed homes in Texas this year, designed to withstand hurricanes.
Miami-based architecture firm MV Group USA has put extreme weather conditions and sea level rise at the forefront of the design of its new waterfront home.
The company is currently renovating a home in Coconut Grove, near Miami, that sits below sea level. According to the president of MV Group USA, to help residents cope with the inevitable flooding, the company converted the home’s existing ground floor into an 8-car garage with a separation wall and drainage to help residents cope with eventual flooding, as well as provide a new floor plan for the building. Added three tiers of Manny Wallas.
A Canadian company is studying how non-traditional housing materials can help make homes more hurricane-resistant. JD Composites created a hurricane-proof wall from recycled plastic soda bottles, which they claim can withstand a Category 5 hurricane.
Several companies have been working for years on how to help families and communities be more resilient to extreme weather events other than hurricanes. In California, where the wildfire season has expanded due to climate change, an architecture firm has designed a home with a zinc roof and flaps that act as a kind of “fire blanket.”
Tesla, the auto and clean energy company run by Elon Musk, has also been working to help homeowners deal with the dire consequences of man-made climate change. The company has made solar roof panels that can resist the strong winds that occur during hurricanes.