The ev­ery­thing-proof hou se

Popular Science - - FEATURES - By Har­lan Mur­phy

1) Foun­da­tion

Foun­da­tions, which pre­vent homes from sink­ing into the ground, typ­i­cally come in one solid piece. But a vented de­sign lets flood­wa­ter pass un­der­neath the liv­ing struc­ture, leav­ing it un­af­fected. Al­ter­nately, mount the house on piles and cover the gaps with break­away walls, which de­tach dur­ing a flood.

2) Trees

Keep trees at least 20 feet away to pro­tect your home from wind­borne branches.

3) An Air-Gapped Ex­te­rior

Wind and rain drive wa­ter up and be­hind tra­di­tional sid­ing, soak­ing a home’s frame. So­lu­tion: Keep an air bar­rier be­tween the fiber-ce­ment sid­ing pan­els and the house. If a lit­tle rain­wa­ter gets past the sid­ing, it will sim­ply drain out through the bot­tom.

4) Ceramic Win­dows

In an in­tense fire, cold wa­ter from a fire­fighter’s hose de­liv­ers a ther­mal shock that shat­ters tra­di­tional win­dows, feed­ing oxy­gen to the flames inside. But clear ceramic win­dows can with­stand tem­per­a­tures up to 1300°F with­out ex­pand­ing or con­tract­ing.

TOR­NA­DOES SWEEP­ING THROUGH THE MIDWEST. HUR­RI­CANES AND ris­ing sea lev­els in­un­dat­ing the coasts. Wild­fires burn­ing up the South­west, while bliz­zards are freez­ing the North. The en­vi­ron­ment can, at any time, put your home un­der siege. But with clever ar­chi­tec­ture and ad­vanced ma­te­ri­als, houses can de­fend them­selves.

Of course, this home, with its mashup of dif­fer­ent win­dows and walls, isn’t par­tic­u­larly re­al­is­tic. It doesn’t have to be; no part of the United States has to face all of these weather dis­as­ters at once. But the tech­nol­ogy that went into it is real. So if you’re pre­par­ing to bat­ten down ev­ery pos­si­ble hatch, con­sider in­cor­po­rat­ing some of these de­signs.

5) Uns­mash­able Win­dows

When struck with high-speed hur­ri­cane de­bris, shat­ter-re­sis­tant poly­mer lay­ers lam­i­nated be­tween the panes al­low this glass to act like a car wind­shield: It might crack but won’t shat­ter. The ma­te­rial comes in vary­ing strengths—the stur­di­est can stop bul­lets.

6) ...Or Shut­ters

To pro­tect win­dows and doors, try storm shut­ters, par­tic­u­larly re­tractable ones like you might see over a closed shop. When de­ployed— ei­ther with a mo­tor or by hand—the alu­minum slats in­ter­lock and fas­ten along the bot­tom to cre­ate an ar­mored shell. When not in use, they roll into a 6-inch box.

7) Steel Sid­ing

Wor­ried about wild­fires? Clad your home’s ex­te­rior in fire-re­sis­tant pan­els. By sandwiching closed­cell flame-re­sis­tant foam inside a me­tal shell, these sid­ing al­ter­na­tives keep fire at bay. (They’re great in­su­la­tors too!)

8) Con­crete Wall

For sim­ple fire and wind re­sis­tance, no ma­te­rial beats con­crete. Of course, nat­u­ral light is nice, and so are doors. A solid slab of con­crete can’t pro­vide that. So, in fire-prone ar­eas, a mix of con­crete and steel­sid­ing-cov­ered walls of­fers a com­pro­mise.

9) Roof

In cold re­gions, most homes have an­gled roofs with gen­er­ous over­hangs to let snow slide off. Why? On a flat sur­face, the fluff can melt, re­freeze, and thaw again, putting strain on the struc­ture and slowly leak­ing H2O into your home. To fur­ther re­duce warm, melt-in­duc­ing spots, keep the at­tic cool: Ven­ti­late it well and in­su­late it along the floor rather than the rafters.

10) Lawn

Your lawn is the un­sung hero in the fight to halt wild­fires. Plant wa­ter­re­tain­ing suc­cu­lents like agave, yucca, and cac­tuses, and elim­i­nate dry or dead plants near the house. Prune trees at least 6 feet up so smaller branches will be safe from a low spread­ing fire, and clear away dry, flammable plant ma­te­ri­als and mulch.

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