Green Construction Could Mitigate Storm Impact
The devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines is hard for most of us to fathom. Winds gusted at 170 miles per hour, and estimates are up to 10,000 people have died. According to BBC Asia 15.75 inches of rain fell in some places.
The Unites States is not immune from extreme weather, as the communities still rebounding from Superstorm Sandy attest. Leading climatologists believe such extreme weather is likely to increase over the next several decades.
While it may be impossible to avoid extreme weather, there may be ways to mitigate some of its impact, at least in a home. New, green building materials are being designed to not only have low impact on the environment when they’re built, but to withstand high impact from the environment.
One such material is in the testing phase right now. It’s a large, polymer home building block, designed by the Paducah, Ky., firm Lok-N-Blok. According to Greg Siener, the firm’s president, his building blocks have many virtues. They are easy to assemble, don’t rot, and are lighter than cinder blocks.
They’re also remarkably strong, which could prove invaluable during hurricanes, earthquakes, or tornados. Computer tests showed the blocks withstood winds in excess of 250 mph. “There is no product out there that can resist that much,” Siener said.
Also, the blocks don’t shatter under extreme pressure, unlike cinder blocks. They might get creased, Siener said, but not much more. “The building won’t fail, fall, and trap the people inside,” he said. The blocks’ seismic resistance was so high it couldn’t be measured by the testing software.
Other products offer similar claims of protection. Fox Blocks makes industrial strength concrete forms, or ISCF, designed to outperform traditional concrete. They’re lightweight, well-insulated, and reinforced with steel.
In one real world example Fox Blocks were used in a new home, “The Lodge at Marlow,” in Southern Alabama. Built post-Katrina the Lodge was designed to withstand winds of up to 185 mph. The ISCF blocks helped make the home so durable, as did more robust windows, and hardier nails on the roof edge.
Such safety features also made it possible for the home to get insured—not a given in that area —and at a lower cost versus typical construction.