Making Houses More Resistant to Harsher Climate is about how some leading residential Architects are strengthening the houses they design and otherwise improving them, to deal with the planet’s changing environment.
Most of the people presently living in houses (and that’s a majority of the USA population) take for granted that their residence will keep out the rain, remain standing when winds blow, not fall down when flood water rise, not make them sick, and keep them warm in winter and cool in summer. Well, guess again. MOST of the houses that have been built during the last 10 years, 25 years and 100 years were not engineered by anyone, most of them were not “designed” by any professional of any sort, and none of them have had to deal with the increasingly harsher environment that is attacking our country.
Global climate change is affecting our country, and not in a good way. Ocean levels are rising, hurricanes are becoming more intense and more often, floods more frequent, heavier rains more common, and other climatic events that the housing most Americans live in was never created to withstand. And so your houses blow down, killing people, mold grows in moisture-saturated walls, floors and ceiling, making you sick, and rising flood waters push your house down.
In the last several years, most regions of the United States have experienced severe climatic events linked to environmental change. Therefore, the Federal Government (White House) initiated a National Climate Assessment to document the impact of climate change on the USA. A group of 300 experts were guided by a 60 person Federal Advisory Committee. The report was reviewed by the public and other experts, including Federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences. The report was entitled: National Climate Assessment, U.S. Global Change Research Program Report, nca2014.globalchange.gov <–Click here to see National Climate Assessment website.
The report indicated that the American people are being negatively impacted by climate change. An excerpt from the report reads:
“climate change is already affecting he American people in far-reaching ways. Certain types of extreme weather events with links to climate change have become more frequent and/or intense, including prolonged periods of heat, heavy downpours, and, in some regions, floods and droughts. In addition, warming is causing sea level to rise as glaciers and Arctic sea ice melt, and oceans are becoming more acidic as they absorb carbon dioxide. These and other aspects of climate change are disrupting people’s lives and damaging some sectors of our economy.”
The Federal Government has come to the conclusion that our Country is not prepared to deal with the effects of climatic change and that our nation’s housing and buildings need to be more resilient to do so. We agree. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people having new houses built for them don’t engage an Architect to design it for them and the building codes are years behind in their adoption. It typically requires serious long term misery and thousands of deaths of innocent people before Codes change. Even so, codes are not enforced consistently across the nation.
Building inspectors have various levels of knowledge and rarely will an inspector of a municipality or county have any sort of licensing as an Engineer or Architect. They are also often over-worked and spread thinly, resulting in cursory inspections that don’t always notice deficiencies that could result in future water intrusion (leaking), air infiltration, rotting of structural members, and lack of reinforcing at critical connections to better resist stronger winds, seismic events and other environmental forces that could and do knock the house down, grow mold and mildew and make your house uncomfortable. And, unfortunately, the building code adoption process is woefully cumbersome. Most States don’t adopt the latest code updated version for 6 years or more, so that by then, the code is 6 to 9 years old. What to do?
Fortunately, there is something each of you can do, when setting about to have your next house designed and built: HIRE AN ARCHITECT to design it. A Licensed Architect experienced in the design of houses. There is one organization in the USA, called ArCH: Architects Creating Homes. It is a professional society of Licensed Architects who primarily design houses. Its members specialize in the design of residential projects. They share design, technical and administrative information nationwide, learning from each other and other specialists in this sector. They are at: www.ArCHomes.org
Seek an Architect who belongs to ArCH to design your next custom house. There is a listing of ArCH members on the Find An Architect page of the ArCH website. You need to have an Architect specializing in the cutting edge of residential architecture. Your life may depend on it. Certainly your quality of life.
Why: If they are still alive, talk to someone whose house blew down in Hurricanes Sandy ($68B), Katrina ($81B), Andrew ($55.8B) (costs in Billions of US dollars). Rand Soellner, ArCH, NCARB, LHI, Senior Staff Architect at HOME ARCHITECTS ® remembers visiting Miami after Hurricane Andrew: “The devastation was far and wide, like a war zone that had been bombed.
I asked local building officials why so many houses could not survive the winds and rain. They answered: 2 reasons: no steel connectors (or not enough) holding the roofs to the walls and the walls together, and wind and wind-borne debris knocked out the doors and windows (especially large garage doors), then the winds roared in like a prize-fighter’s upper cut and punched off the roofs, then whole structures collapsed.” The itty-bitty “hurricane clips” did not have and do not have sufficient holding strength to withstand the harsher winds acting on houses these days.
Which is why architectural companies like Soellner’s are detailing and specifying larger and longer galvanized steel strapping to hold roof framing members down, and other inexpensive steel engineered components to hold the walls together, more bolts to hold the wall sill plates to the foundation wall, and cranking up the DP (Design Pressure) required for their doors and windows on their projects.
They also increased the number of girts required on garage doors, their gage, size, and number of fasteners, to better resist higher winds. In other words: Learn from the past, or it will come back to haunt you. And the future is becoming harsher.
1. State & locally adopted building Codes are years behind and it will be years more before they are updated to adequately deal with the latest storm events. And the spotty and rushed inspections by local jurisdictions do Not insure that your house will resist harsh storms (just ask Hurricane Sandy victims).
2. Unlicensed people designing housing usually fail miserably when it comes to including features that will make your house stand the test of environmental extremes.
3. Licensed Architects (particularly ArCH members) go above and beyond minimum Code: learning from previous problems to improve future results with superior durability.
4. Weather is becoming harsher.
5. Your house is probably the biggest investment of your life.
6. Hire a Licensed Architect to design your house; your life (and those of your loved ones) may depend on it.