June 18, 2009

Professor gives hurricane building tips

A U.S. architecture professor is offering building design and construction suggestions for structures located in hurricane-prone regions.

New Jersey Institute of Technology Professor Rima Taher focuses on practices that reduce wind pressure on building surfaces and resist high winds in both residential and commercial construction.

Certain home shapes and roof types can make a big difference, said Taher, who recommends designing buildings with square, hexagonal or even octagonal floor plans and with roofs of multiple slopes, such as a four-sloped hip roof. She said such roofs perform better under wind forces than do gable roofs with two slopes.

Gable roofs are common, she said, only because they are cheaper to build, noting research and testing demonstrate a 30-degree roof slope will have the best results.

She also advises connecting roofs to walls with nails, not staples -- stapled roofs were banned in Florida after Hurricane Andrew -- and she recommends the use of hurricane clips. The choice of roofing is important, she said, with different roofing systems performing differently under hurricane conditions. With tile roofs, loose tiles often become wind-borne debris threatening other structures.

Taher details her recommendations in the July issue of Caribbean Construction magazine,