Architectural Design for Hurricane Victims

Architectural Design for Hurricane Victims

architectural design for hurricane victimsRand Soellner Architect is now offering to provide architectural design for new houses and for renovating existing residences for people whose homes have been damaged or totally destroyed by hurricanes.  Soellner is offering his firm’s Basic Services, which includes Programming, Schematic Design – Design Development and Construction Documents at a discounted rate, to assist those in need.

Architect Soellner mentioned that he just received a phone call from a Hurricane Irene 2011 victim, who had just received her insurance payment for her family’s destroyed house.  She wisely decided Not to rebuild the house in the same manner in which it had been built previously; the results of which were a pile of sticks scattered over a 3 county area.

Many people believe that just because there are historic houses still standing that have managed to weather less severe storms, that they can have flimsier construction that meets minimum code.  The ugly truth is: Minimum Code Does NOT a Good House Make.   Home builders can build your house with thinner foundations, with less steel reinforcing and with fewer hold-downs.  And yes, you can save a few thousand dollars cutting these corners.  Do you remember Dirty Harry’s chilling phrase that made Clint Eastwood a box office smash: “Do you feel lucky?”  Having your local building department perform quick visits to see if your builder has complied with “minimum code,” does Not mean that your house can weather a severe storm, or even a light to moderate earthquake.

Most people are surprised to discover, for instance, that Minimum Code does Not require any sort of earthquake resistance if you are in a moderate to light earthquake zone.  Nothing.  Virginia recently experienced a 5.9 tremor that was felt all the way down into North Carolina.  Our entire planet is made up of large sloppy slabs of irregular continental fractured rocky plates that are continuously sliding over and under and into and apart from each other.   For instance, the USGS estimates that the distance between America and Europe is continuing to expand at the rate of about 25 kilometers every million years.  That’s 2.5 kilometers every hundred thousand years, and 2.5 meters every hundred years.  2.5 meters = 8’+.  Plate tectonics is not necessarily a gentle, smooth peanut butter kind of thing.  No.  These are miles-thick gargantuan rocky masses, the size of continents.  Sometime they get stuck on the edges of each other, building up pressure, then they violently snap in one sharp, gut-wrenching bang.  Perhaps if your area hasn’t experienced a significant earthquake in a hundred years (and widespread building codes only really got going in the 1930s and 1940s), it might be about time for big adjustment.  A Bang.  Could your existing house deal with that?  Do you feel lucky?

The bottom line is that there are many reasons why the IRC (International Residential Code) has minimums, not the least of which has to do with the ability of millions of people to afford housing.  This means that it normally takes a real disaster to change the Code.  Like huge fires in big casinos in Las Vegas decades ago, which resulted in much loss of life and property and resulted in major Fire Code updates, making future buildings safer.  Same thing with houses.  It takes a major loss of life and widespread residential destruction to bring about code changes that cost even a little more money, because these efforts are resisted by strong builder lobbies whose mission is to cut costs and eliminate as much regulation and oversight on what they do as possible.  Not all of these builder initiatives are bad; they are trying to assure affordable housing, and that is admirable.  Unfortunately, along with lack of improved building codes for houses, there is always the lurking risk of the next big storm or earthquake or other calamity.  Minimum Code does not, at the present time address these issues adequately.  Do you really want to wait until your house is blown down or shaken to its foundations for Code to catch up with reality?  Just because weaker, cheaper residential construction has “gotten away with it” for decades, doesn’t mean that tomorrow’s big storm isn’t coming to adjust code writers’ perceptions of what should be in the Code.  So don’t think that just because your house complies with minimum code that your house is safe.

Architects and Engineers know what could happen to your house, therefore they indicate more reinforcement and other precautions beyond code minimums to help your residence have a chance to cope with such potential dangers.  Therefore, those who can afford to reinforce their houses, are certainly welcome to do so and architects and engineers encourage them to make their residence at least strong enough to resist the environmental forces they may encounter during one’s lifetime, living in them.

For instance, would you feel that it would be okay if a 50 year storm or a 100 year storm happened to flatten your house while you and your family were living in it, perhaps celebrating Thanksgiving or Christmas or Uncle Jack’s birthday?  Since it only might happen once or twice in your lifetime, would that be okay with you?  … Probably not!

If you find yourself in a situation in which your house has recently been destroyed and you are now wondering what to do, Call An Architect!  If you have been lucky enough to escape that “Minimum Code” house you inherited or bought from a budget builder, just before it collapsed, you have a great opportunity now.  You can have an architect design it to withstand reasonable forces and remain intact.  Most importantly, to keep your lives and your loved ones and your home.  You have been given a second chance.  Use it wisely.  Do it right this time.

Rand Soellner Architect : 1 . 828 . 269 . 9046  .  Give Rand Soellner a call or e-mail ( and get started creating your new dream house.  One that will last this next time around, and weather the storm.

tags: design for hurricane victims, New York, Lakewood, New Jersey, New Haven, Connecticut, Bridgeport, Stamford, New London, Maryland, Atlantic City, Pennsylvania, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Ocean Pines, Nantucket, New Bedford


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