also concentrate on openings—windows, doors, and other openings that can literally blow a home apart. Finally, the provisions look at the load path of a structure to ensure that components are connected adequately.

Building to fortified codes in the Gulf Coast states would save anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of losses, according to Rochman. Given that the value of property vulnerable to hurricanes from Texas to Maine is an estimated $9 trillion, retrofitting is essential.

Consumers and policy makers need to understand that codes do not necessarily provide them with a superior level of protection in their homes and businesses. In places where building codes are lax or nonexistent, people might think that they are buying a structure that is safe. An irony is that homes are often purchased using 30-year mortgages, but the structures being built can stand for just a few years if a storm strikes. People in the United States tend to believe that they should live the way they want and where they want, said Rochman. When baby boomers move from Ohio to the Gulf Coast, they often put up wood frame houses like those in Ohio. But traditional houses in areas susceptible to hurricanes tend to be sturdier, just as homes in New England tend to lack north-facing windows and have pitched roofs. People should “build for where they live,” she said. The design community needs to consider durability as part of a “vernacular architecture.”

Many people believe their houses are resilient when in fact they are not. “We get calls from people all the time who say, ‘Can you designate my house as fortified. My engineer told me I can withstand a category 5 in this thing. It’s like a bunker.’ We’ll go look at it and it’s built out of wonderful reinforced masonry with great anchored windows, but the roof isn’t held on at all. There’s no strapping tying the roof to the walls. We’ll tell people and they’re furious because they spent [so much] to make a resilient home.” Communities, government, and the design and construction industries have not made durability a priority at every step of the process—in design, construction, rehabilitation, and renovation. Yet costs for everyone are substantially lower in disasters if resilience is built into structures from the beginning.

Rochman observed that one of the reasons for studying the durability of structures is to generate compelling videos to disseminate to consumers. IBHS has a video on YouTube that compares two identical homes subjected to a category 3 hurricane, one of which has several upgrades that cost a few thousand collars. “It’s startling, and anybody can understand it.”

The real estate industry could benefit from several practices common in the automobile industry. New cars have a sticker in their windows that provide the mileage, crash safety rating, cargo space in the trunk, and so on. A listing for a home says how many bedrooms and bathrooms it has, whether it has stainless steel appliances, and so on, but contains essentially no information about the structural integrity of that house. “It will not tell you anything about the roof. It won’t tell you if it was built to code or if it’s been added onto by Uncle Bob

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement