Technologies To Protect Your Home Against Extreme Weather
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Technologies To Protect Your Home Against Extreme Weather

With storms, floods and wildfires a mounting concern for many homeowners, building experts look ahead at ways to prepare.

Wed, Apr 13, 2022 10:52amGrey Clock 5 min

Threats from hurricanes, wildfires and tornadoes are a growing concern for many homeowners looking for ways to protect their properties—especially as some scientists report that extreme weather events will likely continue to have far-reaching consequences in coming years.

New technologies are emerging. Companies are developing innovative roof systems such as one made by Tesla Inc. that aim to handle high winds and punishing hail. For new homes, novel uses of concrete, including a method that squeezes it out in layers like toothpaste, offer sturdy alternatives to wood-frame construction. “The Romans had concrete, but the way we’re using it by doing 3D printing is new,” says architect Rose Grant.

Homeowners contemplating some of the more cutting-edge approaches to shoring up their homes could be looking at hefty price tags—meaning they will need to weigh potential benefits against costs. And because most American homes are older than 10 years, retrofits will be key, industry experts say.

In the face of weather and climate threats in coming decades, the best advice remains avoiding coasts, floodplains or forests as home sites, says Nicholas Rajkovich, a University at Buffalo associate professor of architecture.

But for those looking to fortify their homes, here are coming options and the latest expert advice:

Roofs Go High-Tech

Solar roof systems are among the newest offerings for homeowners, billed as offering sturdy protection while also generating power. These non-traditional roofs combine sleek aesthetics and environmental sustainability with disaster resilience, building experts say.

Tesla Inc. is among the companies making a solar roof system that features strong glass tiles embedded with solar cells. Tesla says its roof, constructed with a combination of glass solar tiles, glass roofing tiles and architectural-grade steel tiles, has the top fire rating, second-highest hail rating and can withstand 110-mph winds. Costs vary by roof size, a Tesla representative says. Ivan Gould, a real estate agent in Sarasota, Fla., says the Tesla roof on his 2,400-square-foot home cost $41,500 after a tax credit.

GAF Energy, part of privately held Standard Industries, this year launched a roof system that it says directly integrates solar technology into traditional roofing processes and materials. The company says the system uses the world’s first nailable solar shingle and has the same fire and wind ratings as Tesla’s roof.

Seal the Roof Deck

As too often seen in recent disasters, severe weather can take off a roof’s shingles, allowing rain to pour through gaps in the underlying roof deck and destroy the home’s interior. An unsealed roof deck allows up to 60% of falling rain to enter the attic, the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety says.

Here, a tried-and-true fix can make a big difference. Sealing the roof deck is relatively easy, and can reduce water entry by as much as 95%, the insurance institute says. One method is to cover seams with flashing tape, then top the deck with a reinforced synthetic material. The roof deck of a 2,000-square-foot home could be sealed for as little as $500, the institute says.

3D-Printed Walls

Most houses are “stick built” with wood frames, yet some builders are shifting to concrete to build stronger walls. Austin-based Icon Technology Inc. says it has used 3D printing to build more than two dozen homes and other structures. A 46.5-foot-wide gantry-style printer dispenses a concrete mix, layer by layer, to form walls at a home site. The computer-driven process can save time and money, and yield a structure whose exterior won’t burn or rot and that can withstand extreme weather better than conventional wood-frame homes, says Bungane Mehlomakulu, Icon’s head of building performance. Compared with other types of construction, 3D printing can more easily create curved walls that allow high winds to flow past, he says.

Iowa-based Alquist 3D, which focuses on affordable housing, says it plans to print hundreds of homes over the next three years. Black Buffalo 3D Corp., which supplies Alquist’s material and printers, says its proprietary concrete mixture cures to a compressive strength of 7,500 pounds per square inch, well above the global wall-strength standards range of 2,500 to 4,000 PSI.

Ignition-Free Zones

Increasingly intense and destructive wildfires have focused attention on efforts needed to mitigate risks for homeowners—and is bolstering a growing idea that joint neighborhood efforts can be more effective than those of individuals. Embers and small flames cause a majority of homes to ignite during wildfires, the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association says. Many of the prescriptions remain basic: To lower risks, homeowners in fire-prone areas should clear potential fuels—anything that can burn—up to 200 feet from the house, the group says. The most critical zone is the 5-foot perimeter around the home.

Remove dead leaves from roofs and gutters. Enclose areas under decks with wire mesh to keep out debris. Move anything that might catch fire, including plants, away from exterior walls. Tree placement is also key, the association says. Branches and leaves should be at least 10 feet away from the house, and there should be more space between trees closest to the dwelling.

Protect the Entry Points

Windows are vulnerable in a wildfire, and heat from burning trees can shatter the glass before a home ignites. Double-paned windows, with one pane of tempered glass, can reduce the risk, according to Home Innovation Research Labs, an independent subsidiary of the National Association of Home Builders. Finding ways to make windows more resistant to heat and flame is a major focus of research in the homebuilding industry that is expected to bring new products in coming years.

Embers and flames that enter through a vent can ignite a house from within, so it is important to seal off potential entry points, usually found on the roof, around crawl spaces and on the undersides of eaves. Covering vents with ⅛-inch metal mesh screen can block embers big enough to start a fire, the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety says.

Insulate With Concrete

With roots in post-World War II Switzerland, a method known as “insulating concrete forms” is winning plaudits from safety experts for its strength and gaining a higher profile as efforts ramp up to find ways to fend off severe weather. Canada-based Nudura Inc., says structures built with its ICFs can resist winds up to 250 mph, equivalent to an F4 tornado.

Several companies make these forms, which can be stacked along exterior walls like Lego blocks. The forms consist of two layers of insulation material separated by a void several inches wide. Concrete is poured into that gap, creating a concrete-filled sandwich.

Mike Russell, a Nudura technical sales representative, says his 2,500-square-foot ICF house near St. Augustine, Fla., emerged unscathed from Hurricane Michael in 2016 and a tornado in 2017. While the house cost 5% more to build than a traditional home, he says, the insulating effects keep his electric bill around $40 to $50 a month, even in summer.

Let the Water In

In a counterintuitive idea, building experts say allowing part of your house to flood could help you protect it. Using a technique known as “wet floodproofing,” small rectangular openings can be added to foundation and garage walls, below the expected flood level. If flood waters allowed to enter a home’s enclosed area can quickly reach the same level as flood waters outside, the destructive effects of hydrostatic pressure are reduced, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This can help limit damage to the foundation and other parts of the house.

“You just allow your basement to flood, so that you can clean it up later,” said Nicholas Rajkovich, a University at Buffalo associate professor of architecture. This, of course, would require putting the furnace, hot water tank and other appliances at higher levels. And, to be sure, it’s best for basements, garages and other areas not used as living space.

Beware the Garage

The garage door is typically the largest opening in a home’s building envelope, and if it breaks open during a hurricane or tornado, the rapid buildup of air pressure inside can “literally rip the roof off the house,” says John Peavey, who directs the building-science division at Home Innovation Research Labs. He recommends a reinforced garage door, which some local codes require. Impact-resistant windows and skylights will also help prevent blowouts, as do hurricane shutters.

Extra protection against wind can add 20%-30% to a garage door’s cost, according to Mischa Fisher, chief economist at Angi, formerly Angie’s List.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: April 12, 2022.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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Home values across Australia rose by a median 8 percent in FY24, delivering the equivalent of $59,000 in new capital growth to the two-thirds of the population that owns a home, according to CoreLogic data. Investors received total returns of 12.2 percent over the year, including capital gains and gross rental income.

Very tight supply and demand in most capital cities except Melbourne and Hobart was a significant driver of the capital growth, with the smaller and more affordable capital cities of Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide experiencing the most price appreciation over the year. A lack of properties for sale trumped the usual dampening effect of higher interest rates.

As usual, some areas outperformed their city’s median growth benchmark. Here are the top SA3 areas for capital growth in each capital city of Australia in FY24. SA3 areas are large suburbs, or districts incorporating clusters of suburbs, with more than 20,000 residents.



Home values across Sydney rose by a median 6.3 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Mount Druitt. Its median value rose by 13.96 percent to $859,939. Mount Druitt is located 33km west of the CBD. It incorporates the suburbs of Mount Druitt, Ropes Crossing, Whalan and Minchinbury. The Mount Druitt community is very multicultural with almost one in two residents born overseas. It is home to many young families, with the median age of residents being 33 compared to the NSW median of 39.



Home values across Melbourne rose by a median 1.3 percent in FY24. The top area for capital growth was Moreland-North with 4.71 percent growth. This took the district’s median home value to $746,488. Moreland-North includes the suburbs of Hadfield, Pascoe Vale and Glenroy. It’s a multicultural community with a particularly large contingent of residents with Italian ancestry. One or both parents of 66 percent of residents were born overseas, according to the 2021 Census.



Home values across Brisbane rose by a median 15.8 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Springwood-Kingston in Logan City. Its median value swelled by 25.55 percent to $710,569. Springwood-Kingston is approximately 22km south of Brisbane CBD. It incorporates the suburbs of Springwood, Kingston, Rochedale South and Slacks Creek. It is a multicultural community with one or both parents of 55 percent of the residents born overseas, according to the 2021 Census. More than 15 percent of residents have Irish or Scottish ancestry.



Home values across Adelaide rose by a median 15.4 percent in FY24. The best area for capital growth was Playford in Playford City. Its median value soared by 19.94 percent to $530,991. Playford is approximately 40km north of Adelaide. It incorporates the suburbs of Elizabeth Downs, Elizabeth Grove, Angle Vale and Virginia. It is home to many young people under the age of 40. The median age of residents is 33 compared to the state median of 41.



Home values across Perth rose by a median 23.6 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Kwinana in Kwinana City. Its median value skyrocketed by 33.19 percent to $618,925. Kwinana is approximately 37km south of Perth CBD. It includes the suburbs of Leda, Medina, Casuarina and Mandogalup. Henderson Naval Base is located here and there is a significant community of servicemen and ex-servicemen living in the area. It is home to many young families, with the median age of residents being 33 compared to the state median of 38.



Home values across the nation’s capital rose by a median 2.2 percent in FY24. The best area for capital growth was Weston Creek. Its median value rose by 5.24 percent to $937,740. Weston Creek is approximately 13km south-west of the CBD. It includes the suburbs of Weston Creek, Holder, Duffy, Fisher and Chapman. Approximately 43 percent of residents have a bachelor’s degree, which is on par with the ACT median but much higher than the national median of 26 percent. Household incomes are about 35 percent higher than the national median. Almost one in five residents work in government administration jobs.



Home values across Hobart fell 0.1 percent in FY24. The top performing area for capital gains was Sorell-Dodges Ferry with 2.78 percent growth. This took the area’s median home value to $615,973. Sorell-Dodges Ferry is approximately 25km north-west of Hobart. It incorporates the suburbs of Richmond, Sorell, Dodges Ferry, Carlton and Primrose Sands. The area has a large community of baby boomers and retirees, with the median age of residents being 43 compared to the Australian median of 38.



Home values across Darwin rose by a median 2.4 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Litchfield. Its median value moved 3.21 higher to $672,003. Litchfield is about 37km south-east of Darwin and includes the suburbs of Humpty Doo, Acacia Hills and Southport.  It has a high proportion of middle-aged residents, with the median age being 39 compared to the territory median of 33. About 12 percent of residents are Indigenous Australians. The biggest industries are government administration and defence. Median household incomes are about 35 percent higher than the national median.



This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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