Websters: SOLUTION 1) a. the act, method or process of solving a problem b) the answer to a problem c) an explanation, clarification, etc. {the solution of a mystery}.

Eight hurricanes made landfall in the US in 2021. Estimated losses were $70 billion. IDA alone caused 95 deaths according to Forbes Magazine. Now there is Hurricane IAN, which devastated a large swath of Florida late last month (landfall 9/28/22). Although all the facts are not yet in, it is safe to say IAN killed more people in Florida alone than IDA’s wrath, and goodness only knows how many structures were lost, mainly homes. Likely in the thousands.

Update (11/5/2022): The Red Cross appears to be the first organization to venture an estimate of how many homes were destroyed or suffered major damage from Hurricane Ian: 15,000 and counting. 15,000+ is an incredibly large number, calling for a real solution.

Hurricane IAN could be the game changer. We can only hope. It is a mystery to me that a nation as large and wealthy as the United States is unable to arrive at a SOLUTION to building homes able to withstand Cat. 4, and even Cat. 5, hurricanes. It is obvious to me that the SOLUTION must involve the use of STEEL — preengineered and prefabricated for ease of assembly.

In the past I have written several articles addressing this SOLUTION. They are listed below, and are linked for ease of access. Several of these posts were in reaction to Cat. 5 Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in September of 2017, with an estimated $91.61 billion in losses, and 2,975 deaths (both directly and indirectly). This year, even Cat. 1 Hurricane Fiona added heavily to the toll in Puerto Rico. In any case, the arguments posed in these blogs also apply to FLORIDA:

Worth repeating here … below is an important excerpt from my October 31, 2019 post. From a 2018 report on the potential savings of pre-disaster itigation by the National Institute of Building Sciences:

During the ongoing study, the Institute’s project team looked at the results of 23 years of federally funded mitigation grants provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and found mitigation funding can save the nation $6 in future disaster costs for every $1 spent on hazard mitigation.

This is quite an eye-opening figure, and logically suggests that investments made in more resilient infrastructure now result in significant cost savings when weighed against the catastrophic damage these hurricanes cause. Constructing resilient homes represents a great opportunity to rebuild these islands (and Florida) in a way that will help protect the inhabitants from the future threat of hurricane damage.

Room for Improvement

President Biden has adopted the admonition used by many after Haiti’s earthquake in 2010: “build back better,” which has always sounded good. But I’ve been tracking earthquakes and hurricanes for over 20 years, and to this day can’t point to any substantive application of “building back better,” especially with regards to housing. Can you? This is painful to observe, especially when a resilient framing system is now available. It is called the HabiTek System.

I brought up HabiTek’s benefits in a blog back on October 21, 2019 titled “START FROM SCRATCH – USE STEEL.” It was written in reaction to Hurricanes Irma and Maria back in 2017, which impacted several Caribbean islands, especially Puerto Rico. By the way, engineering for hurricanes meets the same code requirements as designing for earthquakes.

Ida’s destruction of Grand Isle, LA, ©CNN

Last month was certainly a tragic one for disasters: the 7.2 earthquake in Haiti on August 14th and Cat. 4 Hurricane Ida in southern Louisiana and Mississippi on August 29th. The latter proceeded northward to New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania as a tropical storm causing severe flooding and killing around 52 people. Ida was proceeded last year by Hurricanes Laura and Delta, both Cat. 4 storms, and both struck in and around Lake Charles, Louisiana. This area is a long way from recovering. But the question still remains, what building material to use for the recovery and how best to employ it.

An excellent discussion on resilient building materials can be found in a White Paper prepared by the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) in 2017, titled “The Impact of Material Selection on the Resilience of Buildings.” This essay clearly describes why steel framing is stronger and able to withstand earthquakes and hurricanes (even Cat. 4 & 5) if, of course, properly pre-engineered by design professionals.

For further reference and more information, you are invited to visit THE SYSTEM & BENEFITS and THE HAITI INITIATIVE pages to learn how the HabiTek system can be applied in these circumstances.

Design Flexibility is a Core Feature of the HabiTek System

It may be difficult to imagine that a pre-engineered and pre-fabricated steel framing system can be highly flexible when it comes to design choices. In general, pre-fabricated building systems only provide limited design variations.

HabiTek, on the other hand, uses pre-fabricated components, but the way in which we deploy and combine them is effectively limitless. Our System Schematics page illustrates the inherent design flexibility when building with the HabiTek system.

Here’s a bit of what’s possible:

  • The framework can be readily elevated above the ground (to combat localized flooding for instance), set on a conventional concrete slab, or built atop a basement foundation wall.
  • All roof types are possible: shed, hip, gable end, and flat.
  • Depending on various factors, infill panels can be framed with wood studs (hybrid approach) or using steel studs, which would be beneficial in areas prone to wildfires. We are also exploring the use of MASS TIMBER panels, which includes cross laminated timber (CLT) and MASS PLYWOOD (MPP).
  • Also beneficial in areas prone to wildfires, the floor and roof substrates can be made with composite slabs – steel pan decking plus concrete.
  • In areas prone to hurricane force winds, or even earthquakes, a HabiTek framework can be pre-engineered to resist these forces. This is possible because the framework is comprised of bolted-together STEEL components.
  • Last, but not least, in many cases the framework can be assembled DIY. Even when this might not be feasible, the framework can be erected in much less time and with much less effort than other methods, greatly reducing labor costs. In any case, HabiTek’s approach is cost competitive with most methods of construction, including platform wood framing.

No matter your structural or design requirements, HabiTek has you covered.

In a Wildfire Region — Use Non-Combustible Construction

Our hearts go out to all the folks suffering due to wildfires in California, Oregon, and my home state of Washington. 2020 has been a difficult year on multiple fronts, and these wildfires cause massive property damage, displacement, and loss of life throughout the region.

Building with non-combustible materials such as steel is one way to mitigate this threat. Without the fuel provided by stick-framed construction, fire risk is greatly reduced. Oddly, this measure is rarely discussed in spite of the massive and ongoing destruction of homes and other buildings.

HabiTek’s most recent Beta Project, the Adapt-1, is an excellent example of fire-resistant construction. For this vacation house on the Baja Peninsula Sur in Mexico, our client insisted that NO wood be used. Rather than wildfires, though, the owner was concerned about “critters,” primarily termites, that feed and nest in wood. To create the Adapt-1, we combined HabiTek’s steel framing system with a composite slab (steel decking and concrete). This approach could be very beneficial to folks in forested areas of the West.

BTW: The initial design concept for the Adapt-1 was provided by the owner. A non-combustible HabiTek house could also be slab-on-grade, sport a hip or gable end roof, be two stories, or consist of countless other variations.

HabiTek Can Be in Puerto Rico’s Future!

The official 2020 hurricane season begins in just two days. NOAA forecasts a 60% likelihood of an above-average season. As reported in the Washington Post earlier this month, the 2020 season has a “70% chance of 13 to 19 named storms, six to 10 of which will become hurricanes. Three to six of those could become major hurricanes of Category 3 intensity or higher, and there is a chance that the season will become ‘extremely active’.” In the Caribbean, this reality must be coupled with earthquakes, like the ones Puerto Rico has endured for most of 2020.

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Quality Construction

Because of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, followed by Dorian in 2019, around 1 million structures, mostly homes, were either damaged or destroyed on islands throughout the Caribbean and Western Atlantic. Add in losses from the recent earthquakes that hit Puerto Rico, and that number grows even further. Although not official, 1 million homes in need of rescue is an enormous quantity. Bringing those homes back to life would be an overwhelming task for any one nation, even the United States. That the damage has occurred on a variety of dispersed islands creates an even greater challenge, one I would argue is unprecedented.

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Haiti’s Calamity, Ten Years Ago Today

A few hours from now will mark the moment Haiti, 10 years ago, met with one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history – 4:53PM EST to be exact (1:53PM PST). This tragic anniversary is certainly a moment to pause and reflect.

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Hurricane Coming — Batten Down!

Imagine living in a resilient HabiTek steel framework during hurricane season in Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, or any of the many other islands in the Caribbean. You learn that a hurricane is headed in your direction, but you only have two days to prepare. Past experience would compel you to gather up important possessions and make plans to evacuate out of the storm’s path. Of course, this can be a dubious proposition as often there is no place that isn’t in the storm’s direct path.

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Start from Scratch — Use Steel

The immense destruction in 2017 caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean continues to be in the news. It is impossible to comprehend the scale of the losses. Several of these island were scoured, stripped of most buildings and even vegetation. Irma is considered the most powerful Atlantic Ocean storm in recorded history; worse still, climatologists predict more of these Cat. 4 & Cat. 5 (185 mph) storms in the future. More lives lost, and more billions of dollars in damage.

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“Obliterated”: Building for the Future

We are all deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life in the Bahamas caused by hurricane Dorian. We wish you a speedy recovery.

“Obliterated” is the word CNN used to describe the impact of Cat. 5 hurricane Dorian on the Abaco Island of the Bahamas. We live in a new world as a result of global warming in which Category 4 and 5 hurricanes are the norm – and this is not expected to change soon, if ever. In 2017, large portions of the US Virgin Islands, Dominica, Barbuda, and Puerto Rico were devastated by the Cat. 4 winds generated by hurricanes Maria and Irma. Consequently, as many as three quarters of a million homes have been either severely damaged or totally destroyed in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic in the last two years.

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