ONE YEAR AFTER MATTHEW: Builders and Scientists study how to make your home more hurricane resilient

ONE YEAR AFTER MATTHEW: Builders and Scientists study how to make your home more hurricane resilient
Construction materials demonstrated by Bruce Carrell
Construction materials demonstrated by Bruce Carrell
Clemson University Wind Cannon
Clemson University Wind Cannon
Clemson University students in Wind Tunnel
Clemson University students in Wind Tunnel

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - After over a decade of relatively quiet tropical weather here, Hurricane Matthew woke up homeowners in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee with howling and destructive winds.

Hurricane Matthew shattered windows and battered homes as it struck the Grand Strand last year.

Some homes succumbed to the relentless wind, while others stood unscathed.

"The most important thing in my mind is they've got the strongest house we know how to build and hopefully they have more peace of mind as the storm is coming," Bruce Carrell says.

His construction company, Carrell Group, has constructed homes along the Grand Strand for 30 years.

"Wind is what we are working against to protect ourselves from. Trying to keep the wind or the storm out of the house is the goal. If the home gets penetrated at some point, wind gets in the house which causes uplift which is where the source of damage tends to come from," Carrell adds.

After the hurricane spun offshore...

"Pleased to report that we had zero damage from Matthew and we had some pretty strong winds in that hurricane. And we know that sooner or later we will get tested again. Hopefully not in a bad way, but it's just likely that we will get a very strong storm eventually like we've had in the past."

And the reason Carrell says his client's homes stood strong... Matthew was the first test following years of new engineering research.

"Homes today are all structurally engineered. There are numerous fasteners, tie downs that start in the foundation that connect the walls to the foundation, connect the walls to the roof system to hold the house together and brace against winds. Glass has to be stronger than it used to be. All of this working towards making the home safer in a hurricane condition."

Carrell's team uses specially designed materials, such as high impact glass, as a part of the FORTIFIED Home program, a set of engineering standards to reduce home damage from natural hazards.

"The FORTIFIED Home Program is designed to sustain itself through a Category 3 Hurricane. Of course hurricane winds aren't constant they move through various levels. So we anticipate that even higher grade storms, most of our homes would fare well under those conditions," Bruce says.

But there is more to learn about making homes stronger.

Engineering PhD students, such as Bill Ashman, at Clemson University are testing structures with a wind tunnel.

"What we do with this wind tunnel is we use, we can test buildings, either new buildings for research or even buildings that are going to be built in a new city environment and we can get the pressures on the outside of the building, so designers can know what kind of loads they need to design to.

Clemson researchers focus not only on the winds, but replicate the types of debris a hurricane can hurl at homes.

"So we want to know if we build the next building out of plywood or brick and mortar, or whatever, if it is strong enough to deal with an impact of a two by four or something else you would see in a hurricane," adds Ashman.

Continued research is catching the ears of our government leaders when the Carrell Group was asked by state leaders about the companies experience of building in a hurricane prone area.

"They all understood the need for stronger homes and whenever a hurricane hits and we see the kind of impact it has on Texas, or Florida or Puerto Rico, it raises that awareness and reminds us that mother nature is out there."

Awareness still falls on deaf ears to some, as all the engineering data and technology cannot compete with complacency.

"The truth is each storm is different and the winds come in and leave in different ways. A house that's survived numerous hurricanes in a particular location, the next one may be the one that gets it," Carrell says.

It is possible to retrofit homes to be have more protection from strong winds and hurricanes. Carrell says the best time to do this is when you need to replace your windows or roof.

He also adds the impact resistant materials do have a slightly higher upfront cost on new homes, but also can possibly get you discounts on your homeowner's insurance to save you money and peace of mind.

Contractors with the Carrell group continue to see an increase in the structural engineering of home construction.

Carrell adds, "Large door openings that you see behind me which is an impact rated door, a door like that wasn't available some years ago in a storm product. Over time I believe we will see more and more of that kind of thing along with wall systems that are even stronger."

Improvements in the materials that connect the foundation, walls and roof, also known as a continuous load path, make the home as sturdy as possible.

Carrell says they also build homes above what is required by code to give an extra peace of mind in flood prone areas.


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