Weather disasters wreak havoc on houses, but some show their resiliency and withstand the effects and survive. Why? Science can offer suggestions, but builders and owners have to implement them; many are starting to do just that.

In 2008 Hurricane Ike made landfall north of Galveston, Texas and devastated most of the homes with wind gusts up to 115-mph, a 15–20-ft. storm surge, and heavy rains. Ike was unlike any other hurricane that modern science has been able to observe in the Gulf of Mexico. After the storm, 10 homes built to a first-generation Fortified standard were among the last houses standing.

Upon closer inspection, engineers found those homes survived with little damage and performed as intended under this powerful hurricane. Investigation after later hurricanes found roof cover loss was one of the most common modes of damage for residences. Using a sealed roof deck can minimize damage as loss of roof cover is the most frequent damage in major wind events and leads to costly water intrusion.

The IBHS (Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety) has awarded 15,000 Fortified designations for resilient living to homes. Alabama currently leads the nation in Fortified designated buildings and is home to nearly 80% of them. The State of Alabama first recognized IBHS’s building standards in 2009 by passing legislation requiring insurers to provide discounts for homes with a Fortified designation.

On Jan. 1, 2020, new state legislation became law ensuring every homeowner in Alabama is offered a Fortified endorsement. State Farm announced a $150,000 contribution to support the Strengthen Alabama Homes program. We are now a month in, it will be interesting to see how the law is working for all involved.

Using the Fortified Home standards as a guide, Habitat for Humanity has created its own resilience program for new construction and partners with Strengthen Alabama Homes to retrofit homes.

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