Certain home shapes and roof types can better resist high winds and hurricanes,
according to a researcher at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).
Civil engineer Rima Taher, PhD, special lecturer in the New Jersey School of
Architecture at NJIT, spent two years examining the findings of research centers
that have studied the best designs and construction materials and methods needed
to withstand extreme wind events and hurricanes.
Although I'd like to say that there is a simple and economical solution for
housing that won't fail or collapse in the perfect storm, such information does
not yet exist, said Taher. However, it is obvious that thanks to the work of
wind engineers and researchers that changes to home design and construction
can make buildings safer for people, while saving government and industry billions
of dollars annually.
Design of Low-Rise Buildings for Extreme Wind Events (Journal of Architectural
Engineering, March, 2007) by Taher highlighted such research findings. Wind
researchers at the Center for Building Science and Technology (CSTB) in France,
researched and tested reduced-scale home models at its wind tunnel facilities,
and developed a prototype of a cyclonic or hurricane-resistant dwelling. Taher
cooperated with the CSTB wind researchers, working on the structural aspect
of the home's design.
That design eventually became an elevated structure of a square plan form on
an open foundation. The home had a hip roof and was equipped with a central
shaft with aerodynamic features designed to reduce wind forces during an extreme
wind event. Wind tunnel tests at CSTB showed that such a home would be far more
efficient under high winds and hurricane conditions than a typical structure.
CSTB is working with a builder to construct a prototype of such a home on R
union in the West Indian Ocean.
From this work and other studies Taher recommends the following construction
considerations for homeowners in hurricane-prone regions.
- A home with a square floor plan (or better a hexagonal or octagonal plan)
with a multiple-panel roof (4 or more panels) was found to have reduced wind
- Roofs with multiple slopes such as a hip roof (4 slopes) perform better
under wind forces than gable roofs (2 slopes). Gable roofs are generally more
common because they are cheaper to build. A 30-degree roof slope has the best
- Wind forces on a roof tend to be uplift forces. This explains why roofs
are often blown off during an extreme wind event. Connecting roofs to walls
matters. Stapled roofs were banned following Hurricane Andrew in Florida in
- Strong connections between the structure and its foundation and connections
between walls are good. Structural failure is often progressive where the
failure of one structural element triggers the failure of another, leading
to a total collapse. Connections are generally vulnerable but can be inexpensively
- Certain areas of a building such as the ridge of a roof, corners and eaves
are normally subject to higher wind pressures. In the cyclonic home design,
CSTB researchers proposed some aerodynamic features to alleviate these local
pressures such as introducing a central shaft which would function by creating
a connection between the internal space and the roof ridge considered to be
the location of the largest depression. This connection helps balance pressures
leading to a significant reduction in the roof's wind loads.
- Roof overhangs are subject to wind uplift forces which could trigger a roof
failure. In the design of the hurricane-resistant home, the length of these
overhangs should be limited to 20 inches.
- The design of the cyclonic home includes simple systems to reduce the local
wind stresses at the roof's lower edges such as a notched frieze or a horizontal
grid to be installed at the level of the gutters along the perimeter of the
- An elevated structure on an open foundation reduces the risk of damage from
flooding and storm-driven water.