After a severe weather event such as a hurricane, tornado or flood, communities are often left devastated.

The top priority becomes the basic needs of food, water and shelter. The faster those needs can be met, the faster life can return to “normal.” People can get back to their jobs. Children can go back to school. The community can stabilize.

This is one measure of a community’s resiliency, its ability to bounce back. With labor shortages already a top challenge in the building industry, a post-storm spike calling for construction trades labor can pose a significant hurdle to repairing and restoring homes. Industry associations, research centers and builders restoring homes in their communities have developed several voluntary, above-code strategies to enhance a home’s resilience.

Jeff Hunt, founder and president of Jeff Hunt Construction, a design/build firm in Houston, has first-hand experience in helping to rebuild a community post-Hurricane Harvey. He developed his own flood damage resistant rebuilding technique while repairing and restoring Houston area homes.

“What we saw following Hurricane Harvey highlighted the importance of using quality materials that can withstand water and wind damage from major storms,” Hunt noted. “Although you hope it never happens, preparing for that level of damage can help minimize the effects on the home and help people move back into their homes more quickly.”

“One of the biggest challenges we faced was how to replace flood-damaged gypsum sheathing found on older homes,” he added. “We collaborated with Bluegill Energy — another NAHB member — to develop a method to replace the sheathing without removing the brick veneer on flooded homes.”

Hunt supports the use of materials that create a washable, drainable, dryable assembly, coined by the LSU Ag Center’s LaHouse team as “flood-hardy.” LaHouse calls its design “wash-n-wear” houses. Features include:

  • “Let it Dry” construction, including not taping the bottom window flange to allow leaking windows to drain to the outside
  • Paperless drywall with a moisture-resistant core to discourage mold formation
  • Wall assemblies that are drainable and dryable

The Engineered Wood Association (APA) has published “Building for High Wind Resistance in Light-frame Wood Construction” (revised August 2018), a set of voluntary, above-code prescriptive guidelines available for free download designed to help builders improve the performance of homes in high-wind events. Their roof-to-foundation recommendations include:

  • Tie gable-end walls back to the structure. APA post-storm assessments show that one of the weakest links in residential structures during high-wind events is the connection between the gable end and the wall below.
  • Extend structural panel sheathing to lap the sill plate. The connection of wall sheathing panel to the sill plate is where uplift forces are transferred into the sill plate and the foundation through the anchor bolts (anchor bolt spacing recommendations are also in the guidelines).

You can learn more about the importance of resiliency in high-performance building in design at this year’s Southeast Building Conference (SEBC), held Aug. 1-2 in Kissimmee, Fla. NAHB is participating in the session “Where Building Science and Resiliency Intersect” with Stephanie Thomas-Rees of APA and Jeff Hunt to discuss current data and trends in voluntary, above-code programs; review structural failures observed from severe weather events; and explore best practices to minimize home damage from future storms.

NAHB is committed to helping those impacted by natural disasters and has compiled a set of resources to help remodelers, builders, local home builders associations (HBAs) and home owners prepare for and respond to a disaster.