Wind resistant homes set for Florida

The University of Florida has joined federal agencies and private businesses in the US to develop affordable wind-resistant homes in an effort to protect Florida residents from hurricane devastation.

The two-year project is part of a federal initiative to aid windstorm mitigation efforts in several states, said Pierce Jones, an energy extension specialist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

‘Hurricane Andrew in 1992 caused Florida’s housing industry to re-evaluate not only construction methods but also strategies for insuring and financing homes,’ Jones said. ‘The Florida National Quality Demonstration Project is a comprehensive approach to these challenges.’

One long-range goal of the project is to persuade builders across Florida to adopt new construction methods in hurricane-prone coastal areas, said Perry Green, an assistant professor with UF’s civil and coastal engineering department.

He said the project currently focuses on designing homes that can withstand peak wind gusts of at least 140 mph, equivalent to Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, which ranks storms based on wind speed. Category 3 is the third-most severe ranking, with peak gusts of 141 to 165 mph.

The current Florida building code dictates wind-resistance requirements for new homes based on their location, said Craig Miller, a UF energy extension specialist.

‘Beginning January 1, 2002, more stringent wind-loading requirements will take effect in coastal and inland areas,’ Miller said. ‘Some one and two-family dwellings will have to withstand peak gusts of 130 to 150 mph. So this project should be of interest to builders.’

Bill Zoeller, a senior architect with Steven Winter Associates, a Connecticut-based building systems research and design firm, is designing a prototype home with poured-in-place concrete exterior walls and light-gauge steel interior framing.

‘We’re still developing some components, like impact-resistant windows, reinforced garage doors and roof attachments,’ he said. ‘These homes should be affordable and sell for about the same as typical Central Florida construction.’

Designs for the prototype should be completed by next spring, said Kirk Malone, regional vice president of construction for Mercedes Homes in Melbourne.

‘If all goes well, we hope to build a prototype soon afterward,’ Malone said. ‘Eventually we’d like to develop several models, all incorporating the same wind-resistant features, and put them on the market commercially.’

He said Mercedes Homes already is using several of the features expected to be incorporated into the wind-resistant homes, such as poured-in-place exterior concrete walls.

The Florida effort is said to be part of the federal National Quality Demonstration Project, created to address ongoing concerns about hurricane damage to the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, said Dave Weldon, US representative for Florida’s 15th district. Weldon has supported the project in Congress.