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Building to survive the big one: Affordable hurricane-resistant homes

(image: MGN) Building to survive the big one: Affordable hurricane resilient homes

Hurricane Michael spared very few homes in Mexico Beach, Florida.

Those that survived, stand to show a bigger message, building beyond code gives you a better chance to withstand 150 mile per hour winds.

NBC 15, spoke to building experts along the Alabama coast who say there are small changes you can make to keep your home safe as well, without breaking the bank.

Birdseye videos of the damage in Mexico Beach reinforces the difference in home design.

From roof to stilts and the windows and walls between, Dr. Lebron Lackey and his uncle Russell King built their family's vacation home to withstand winds up to 250 miles per hour -- 93 miles per hour faster than the minimum windspeed of a category five hurricane.

“The house was built out of a lot of anxiety and paranoia to build something that would survive,” Dr. Lackey said.

For them, building to survive the big storm meant going beyond code requirements, splurging for survivability.

“Concrete trucks were lined down 36 street to 98 pouring concrete for days to build this house,” King said.

Local building experts say exceeding regional codes isn't financially out of reach for many of us along the Alabama coast.

“We have habitat affiliates doing it that are on a really tight budget, then we have million dollar homes on the bay that are doing it,” Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety’s FORTIFIED Market Development Manager Alex Cary said, adding “It really can be done at any level.”

“Alabama leads the nation in fortified home designations right now,” Smart Home America planning and policy manager Hank Hodde said.

You can see the fortified standard designs tested in this video.

Side by side comparisons show one house coming apart in 100 mile per hour winds. The other stands relatively untouched.

The standing home had building and reinforcement requirements that 70 percent of local jurisdictions across Baldwin and Mobile counties are now making mandatory.

“The program we use in orange beach is the FORTIFIED home program,” Orange Beach’s Building Official and Emergency Management Director Lannie Smith said, adding “We require that buildings be built to the gold standard and there is a little bit of an added expense, but then you also get a large premium discount on your wind insurance for building to that standard.”

Local enhanced codes stress the most important part of a hurricane resistant home is the roof. Sealing a plywood roof under your shingles should be a priority.

“For an average 2,000 square-foot house you may be talking $6 to 8,000 in additional cost,” Smith said, adding “but when you look at the damage on a taped roof deck versus one that is not, the damage could be tens of thousands of dollars in difference.”

Another cheaper security measure is changing up your nails.

“Ring shank nails actually double the strength of the holding power of that nail making your roof twice as strong,” Cary said.

Cary says ring shank nails may cost about $100 to connect the roof to your home. The current building codes also require increased nail patterns for resilience.

Beyond the nails, there are metal straps tying the roof to the frame and anchoring the ground floor to the foundation.

After the frame and metal straps, comes impact rated windows and doors -- what saved Lackey and King’s Mexico beach home from the pressure of 150 mile per hour winds during Michael.

“On the side of the house we have a couple of windows that got struck from debris that was flying,” King said, adding “There’s no glass in the house.”

Local legislators say they've passed 20 laws to protect consumers and insurance agencies building resilient homes.

Starting next year, roofers will now need to get a mandatory Alabama roofers license to install and repair any roof.

For much more information about your local codes and building more resilient head to this website http://www.smarthomeamerica.org/.

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