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Engineers Design Tornado Proof Home

timothy posted about 7 months ago | from the ready-for-that-f6 dept.

Earth 189

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Emily Badger writes at the Atlantic that it's not too hard to build a tornado proof home but it's pretty difficult to design one that's liveable. "If you made a perfect earthquake structure, it would be a bunker with 24-inch walls and one small steel door for you to get in," says architect Michael Willis. That structure would be based on the empirical measurements of structural engineers. "You could design it to be perfectly resistant. But it would not be a place you'd want to live." The task behind the "Designing Recovery" competition (PDF): was to design a liveable tornado proof home in a part of the country where the geology makes it impossible to build tornado cellars or basements. Q4 Architects designed a safe space within a home instead of a shelter underneath it, a kind of house inside of a house. The result is an idea that could be replicated anywhere in tornado alley: a highly indestructible 600 square-foot core of concrete masonry, hurricane shutters and tornado doors where a family could survive a tornado and live beyond it, with several more flexible (and affordable) rooms wrapped around it. "It's going to do it's best to fight the tornado," says Elizabeth George." "Part of your house might get torn away, but the most important parts of the house are safe. After the disaster, everything is not lost. You're able to keep the most valuable things, which are the people, the functions of the house, and maybe your valuables." The genius of this idea is that while it would be significantly more expensive to build out the same tornado precautions for the entire home, the CORE house is meant to be constructed for under $50,000."

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189 comments

NORMAN OK HERE !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45043377)

Bring it on !!

Holy stupid ideas, batman (1, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#45043385)

Guess what? You can already build a concrete dome for around that much money. It will protect the whole house. OMGWTFBBQ this is a solved problem.

I have an even better solution, though. Fucking move. Anyone who bought a house on a floodplain in tornado country is a goddamned idiot.

Re:Holy stupid ideas, batman (2)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 7 months ago | (#45043475)

Anyone who bought a house on a floodplain in tornado country is a goddamned idiot.

Then anyone who lives in a known major earthquake zone is an idiot, so most of California (actually the whole West Coast) should be abandoned. Alternatively, they could have building codes that minimize loss of life in the event of an earthquake, but that's just swimming against the tide, isn't it?

Re:Holy stupid ideas, batman (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 7 months ago | (#45043731)

Then anyone who lives in a known major earthquake zone is an idiot ...

This does begin to explain a lot of things, though.

Re: Holy stupid ideas, batman (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45044137)

Michigan is the only intelligent place to live then.

Re:Holy stupid ideas, batman (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45044043)

Perhaps not that drastic but it has been proven in SF that house on bedrock shake and collapse a HELL OF A LOT less that those on "dirt". Do a geological survey of an area and then zone them as non-inhabitable. Think of all the lovely parks we would have.

It is called educated planning.

Re:Holy stupid ideas, batman (1)

Xicor (2738029) | about 7 months ago | (#45044163)

the difference is that the majority of earthquakes are basically nothing and cause very little property damage. every tornado that goes through your house will destroy your entire damned house

Re:Holy stupid ideas, batman (4, Insightful)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 7 months ago | (#45043505)

While I agree that owning land is an absurdity, "Just move somewhere better!" is one of the least logical cries of the over-privileged.

Re:Holy stupid ideas, batman (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 7 months ago | (#45043591)

Why? your legs broke? pack your crap on your back and Walk to montana.

Re:Holy stupid ideas, batman (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 7 months ago | (#45043971)

Why? your legs broke? pack your crap on your back and Walk to montana.

Which will make you more likely to die in an accident. As a spread out rural state, Montana has one of the worst per capita rates of vehicle fatalities. Deaths from traffic accidents dwarf deaths from natural disasters.

Re:Holy stupid ideas, batman (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#45044273)

While I agree that owning land is an absurdity, "Just move somewhere better!" is one of the least logical cries of the over-privileged.

Let's be clear, I don't even own a home. But neither does someone whose home is redistributed across seven counties by the weather.

Re:Holy stupid ideas, batman (1)

spartacus_prime (861925) | about 7 months ago | (#45044421)

"While I agree that owning land is an absurdity"

Uh, what are you smoking?

"over-privileged"

Oh, you're just brainwashed by the Marxist college professor that teaches you. Carry on.

Re:Holy stupid ideas, batman (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45043593)

Yep - two dome companies have repeated success against hurricanes and tornados - American Ingenuity ( aidomes.com ) and Monolithic Domes ( monolithic.com ).

Re:Holy stupid ideas, batman (4, Informative)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 7 months ago | (#45043725)

FEMA has instructions on how to build a safe-room into your home..

http://www.fema.gov/safe-rooms [fema.gov]

It's been up for years, and the instructions are clear enough for a do-it-yourselfer to do, or to hand off to a contractor to build.

How big you make the room(s) is up to you. If you're in a tornado area, it wouldn't be a bad idea to make effectively a studio apartment. That could be a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen pantry. That way, if your house was completely blown away, you'd still have somewhere to live.

If you can afford a $50k room for something statistically rare, you can make a nice home theater (aka "man cave"). A theater room is better without windows, and soundproof from the rest of the house. With independent emergency power, you could camp out in it, and watch movies through the apocalypse, and come out sometime after its done.

We've been discussing making our safe room here. Unfortunately, most of Florida is not only a tornado risk, but a flood zone. You get both risks during hurricanes. So you may be in the totally safe shelter room from the house falling down around you, but if your exits are blocked, you may end up drowning in the same room.

Re:Holy stupid ideas, batman (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 7 months ago | (#45043749)

Unfortunately, most of Florida is not only a tornado risk, but a flood zone. You get both risks during hurricanes. So you may be in the totally safe shelter room from the house falling down around you, but if your exits are blocked, you may end up drowning in the same room.

You just need one of these [gumotex-re...ystems.com] . Comes in a nice, waterproof container even. Stick an Ikea coffee table or similar over it and your worries are gone.

Re:Holy stupid ideas, batman (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#45044295)

We've been discussing making our safe room here. Unfortunately, most of Florida is not only a tornado risk, but a flood zone. You get both risks during hurricanes. So you may be in the totally safe shelter room from the house falling down around you, but if your exits are blocked, you may end up drowning in the same room.

This is exactly what I'm talking about. If you can afford a $50k room, you can afford to move. Sell your house to someone who thinks something like that is a good idea, rub your $50k together with it, and go someplace that isn't at risk of washing or blowing away. Meanwhile, a safe room won't save you from flooding, precisely as you say. But in 'quake country you can build in any number of ways which will prevent your house from falling down. Mostly we don't, but that is a separate argument...

Re:Holy stupid ideas, batman (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45044309)

We've been discussing making our safe room here. Unfortunately, most of Florida is not only a tornado risk, but a flood zone. You get both risks during hurricanes. So you may be in the totally safe shelter room from the house falling down around you, but if your exits are blocked, you may end up drowning in the same room.

Build your concrete tornado-proof room on a foundation which is the structural eqivalent of a barge constrained by pilings. If it floods, your entire safe-room will be able to float without drifting away from where it is anchored. Of course this raises the cost by quite a bit (didn't say it would be cheap), but should be easily doable within the bounds of current civil engineering and contemporary construction processes.

Re:Holy stupid ideas, batman (3, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about 7 months ago | (#45044081)

Guess what? You can already build a concrete dome for around that much money. It will protect the whole house. OMGWTFBBQ this is a solved problem.

Holy fail to read even TFS, Batman! ;)

"You could design it to be perfectly resistant. But it would not be a place you'd want to live". Most people would not want to live in a giant concrete dome (though I personally would, and I suspect you'll find a fairly unrepresentatively large sample of Slashdotters who would say the same). Simple as that.

That said...


I have an even better solution, though. Fucking move. Anyone who bought a house on a floodplain in tornado country is a goddamned idiot.

This, a thousand times this! Every time I hear about the federal government bailing out people stupid enough to live a place likely to get wiped out once a decade or so, I can't help but think exactly what you've expressed. The US has vast tracts of uninhabited, relatively safe land, yet we have people trying to live in the worst possible choices. Flood zones, tornado alley, scrub-brush tinderboxes, earthquake central.

I have nothing against having FEMA around for the freak "storm of the century" events. But if your day-to-day life at least part of the year involves always listening for that warning klaxon in the distance - You should not live where you do, should not expect the rest of us to bail you out - Period.

Re:Holy stupid ideas, batman (2)

istartedi (132515) | about 7 months ago | (#45044791)

Fucking move.

Cities were built in these areas because rivers and oceans are vital routes of transportation, the fishing is good, the minerals are there to be mined, or the soil is fertile. Of course that doesn't matter now. We have highways and we can just send a few people out to the fertile soil areas to tend the robot workers. It'll take some doing, but we can move everybody to minimal hazard areas and use our cheap energy to do things that need to be done in the hazard areas... just in time for the energy to become really expensive or unattainable. Don't worry though, it'll be all good. Somebody will be mocking the people who pay $100/gal for gasoline. He'll say, "fucking move".

Annoying mistake in TFS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45043413)

It's going to do "its" best, not "it's" best. Argh!! At this rate, they will become interchangeable in a few years, because nobody knows how to use them anymore. :(

Re:Annoying mistake in TFS (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 7 months ago | (#45043487)

While we're at it, "who" is becoming acceptable where "whom" should be used. Referring to a person's gender is nonsensical - people have a sex, and words have a gender. Shall I go on? Yet none of those things leads to any real confusion or ambiguity (if they did, you wouldn't be able to correct them).

Re:Annoying mistake in TFS (0)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 7 months ago | (#45043519)

A grammatical error causes me to slow down to make sure I've not misinterpreted, so it definitely causes me confusion.

Some people with big egos like to assume that they always know what was actually meant - which is how wars usually start.

tl;dr Grammar nazism stops wars.

Re:Annoying mistake in TFS (0)

Panoptes (1041206) | about 7 months ago | (#45043567)

The only grammatical 'rule' is to use 'whom' when it is governed by a preposition: to whom, from whom, for whom, etc. The rest is usage and personal preference, whatever the pedants may claim.

THEM Re:Annoying mistake in TFS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45043739)

Where you would use THEM (or HIM, HER) you use WHOM

Give it to them (him) (her).
Give it to whom?

They (he) (she) did it.
Who did it?

Re:THEM Re:Annoying mistake in TFS (1)

unrtst (777550) | about 7 months ago | (#45044735)

The only grammatical 'rule' is to use 'whom' when it is governed by a preposition: to whom, from whom, for whom, etc.

Where you would use THEM (or HIM, HER) you use WHOM

Give it to them (him) (her).
Give it to whom?

(bold emphasis added)
How does that differ from the GP, other than being vague and harder to understand?

Re:Annoying mistake in TFS (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 7 months ago | (#45044675)

The only grammatical 'rule' is to use 'whom' when it is governed by a preposition

And you're complaining about pedants?

Editorial nit (2)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 7 months ago | (#45043415)

You're able to keep the most valuable things, which are the people, the functions of the house, and maybe your valuables

Just putting that out there.

Provincialism (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 7 months ago | (#45043423)

"The Surprising Reason" houses don't have underground facilities? Maybe surprising to the provincial readers of The Atlantic, but obvious plain logic to everyone else. You'd think educated people would be aware of basic facts like clay soils and what they mean, but evidently that's no longer true. Saying things like "why didn't they just go to the basement, stupid Oklahomans" is like saying "idiotic famine victims, why didn't they just buy some food from the store?" Surprise, my ass.

Re:Provincialism (2)

peragrin (659227) | about 7 months ago | (#45043471)

what is even funnier is that tornado safe rooms have been designed for the last couple of decades, and a concrete bunker in the center of the house isn't a new idea.

the problem is twofold.

the average age of a house in the USA is 30-40 years old. that means things like decent insulation are still far beyond them let alone double pane windows. None of those houses can have a safe room easily or cheaply.

Second none of these are cheap period. a $30,000 addition to even a $300,000 house is a serious investment. The people who really need these are those who can't afford them.

Re:Provincialism (1)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 7 months ago | (#45043531)

the average age of a house in the USA is 30-40 years old

Living as I do in a ~250 year old English house, once a coaching inn, I sometimes forget just how young much of the US is. Which is regrettable, because it's its youth which has made it so dynamic and at the same time so naïve.

Re:Provincialism (2, Insightful)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 7 months ago | (#45043557)

To an American a hundred years is a long time, and to a Briton a hundred miles is a long distance.

Re:Provincialism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45043565)

So living in an old house make you magically wise?

Re: Provincialism (1)

peragrin (659227) | about 7 months ago | (#45043571)

Yep half the country is less than 100 years old .

The other half is little more than twice that.

Re:Provincialism (1, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | about 7 months ago | (#45043605)

Yet houses like mine that are 60 years old are better built than the crap built today.

3/4" thick plywood, real brick and stone and not the styrofoam crap. 6" thick outer walls, real rafters and eaves that extend out. etc....

all homes built today are garbage compared to a properly built home from the 50's

Re:Provincialism (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 7 months ago | (#45043781)

And it would probably pop apart in the first tornado or hurricane since it most likely doesn't have roof straps. Then you're buried under 3/4" plywood, those six inch outer walls and six decades of dirt swept into the corner.

Re:Provincialism (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 7 months ago | (#45044305)

Not exactly. Your 60 year old home is better than the majority of homes built 60 years ago, which is why yours is still standing when most of them are not (well, it's one of the reasons.)

In 60 years, most of the homes built today will be gone. But I dare say a fair number, possibly a higher proportion, will be still standing. It'll probably be a higher proportion (than homes built 60 years ago from today are still standing today) because building codes are getting better, and we're getting better at enforcing them.

This is a common fallacy BTW. I usually see it in the form of "Urgh, electronics are so cheap these days. My dad has a 7" color TV made by RCA in 1953 and it still works!" I'm sure it does. I'm also pretty sure that if 7" color TVs made by RCA in 1953 were as reliable as that anecdote implied, we'd still see tons of them in use.

Re:Provincialism (2)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 7 months ago | (#45044713)

Your 60 year old home is better than the majority of homes built 60 years ago, which is why yours is still standing when most of them are not

Really? Not on Long Island, and I doubt it's because of stricter building codes. For example, there are thousands of houses in Levittown, which were built as tiny inexpensive homes, and the last of them was built exactly 60 years ago. They're virtually all standing, have been expanded, and are in good shape. In my town, there are lots of houses built in the 1920's (a construction boom era), and quite a few that date back further than that.

FEMA safe rooms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45044351)

FEMA has, as described in other posts, published "ready to use" construction drawings for a variety of safe rooms.
They've also made funding available for people to retrofit them in their houses.
This has worked fairly well. Moore OK had a lot less loss of life than would have been the case in earlier tornadoes because a LOT of people were in their safe rooms.
old 60s era schools with no rebar in the concrete block walls did collapse with catastrophic consequences. But that's more a problem of political will: Unlike Joe down the street individually applying for a FEMA grant, the funding for school district capital improvements is much more complex and politics laden.

Re:Provincialism (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 7 months ago | (#45043541)

Get your nose out of the clouds. Surprisingly, most people are not familiar with the type of soil in Oklahoma, and how it affects construction. This denizen of the East Coast found the article interesting and informative. BTW, I presume you're familiar with the details of how barrier islands shift, what preservation efforts do and don't work for them (and why), the stability of different varieties of coastal sand bluffs, the hydrology of Long Island, which affects millions of people, the reason for the hump in the Manhattan sky line, and how despite the explanation for that, the tallest building in the country could still be built in Chicago.

Re:Provincialism (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 7 months ago | (#45044771)

But people from the East Coast are urbane, educated, and sophisticated. Surely during their lives they have encountered this phenomenon, it is very common. Such raw ignorance can only be explained by a narrowness of outlook and a poverty of experience.

Tornado Resistant (2)

onyxruby (118189) | about 7 months ago | (#45043425)

Living in tornado alley I must protest that one does not make a tornado "proof" home, one makes a tornado resistant home. The idea that you can make a home tornado "proof" is greatly misleading and like saying you can make an armored vehicle bomb "proof". You can only make things resistant to a given degree - this in important technicality on a tech site.

Tornadoes are these machinations of nature that are perfectly capable of lifting the foundations of a freeway out of a ground and flinging semi trucks through the air. When the news covers an area that was hit the word used to describe the people that lived is always "survived". Bad headline, bad headline.

Re:Tornado Resistant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45043529)

There is much precedent for saying something is something-else "proof" if it can handle the vast majority of incidents. For instance, bulletproof vests cannot stop all sizes and types of rounds, but they're still considered bulletproof. Many things that are considered waterproof would not be waterproof 1000 meters down in the ocean, but they are still considered waterproof. Of course you're always going to be able to conceive of a situation that can destroy something else - a hydrogen bomb, a supernova - by your definition, the only thing that you could attach "proof" to might be a black hole.

Re:Tornado Resistant (1)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 7 months ago | (#45043539)

Speaking as the average human, I carefully skimmed your post and understand that we should build tornado-proof homes out of black holes?

Re:Tornado Resistant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45044881)

Yeah, that would work. The suction power of hurricanes and tornadoes are no match for a black hole.

Re:Tornado Resistant (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45043919)

Since the fastest wind speed ever recorded was about 320 mph, if you built a structure capable of withstanding say, 400 mph winds, it would for all intents and purposes be tornado proof. Is it "an 18 wheeler landed on my roof" proof? Probably not. But that's not a tornado. That's gravity, and that's an important technicality on a tech site.

Re:Tornado Resistant (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45044291)

I call poopey. Living in tornado alley and spent much time doing hurricane and tornado repair this is not true. A properly designed and built structure can be made windproof. (not much can be done for the storm surge from a hurricane) Problem we have is we are cheap and lazy. Our structures are designed for 80 mph wind loads and 120 mph in coastal areas. Really? And to make it worse, builders generally take every shortcut in the book to bypass these requirements. How about foundation bolts that tie into the foundation? I have yet to see this happen in all but the most expensive houses or commercial properties. There is no record of a tornado pulling any properly built foundation out of the ground. Lifting a bridge section that is held in place by gravity does not count. A couple of bolts would have fixed that problem but the weight will hold it 99.999% of the time so why spend the extra 100k for that 0.001%? Most of the homes built could be made substantially tornado resistant for 5 to 15% more money and appropriate building code enforcement and could be made tornado proof for 25 to 50% more. But then most home buyers would have to settle for a smaller house than be protected from a > 1% event. You take the risk because of your pocket book. A builder proved this in Moore by adhering to wind loading recommendations and using engineered building reinforcement products.

Re:Tornado Resistant (1)

Nimey (114278) | about 7 months ago | (#45044903)

Sure you can make your house tornado-proof, but you have to live in an underground bunker somewhere that's not flood-prone.

Tornado *resistant*... (1)

MetricT (128876) | about 7 months ago | (#45043459)

The walls may help shield from debris in the event of a EF-1 to 3 (which granted is the vast majority of tornadoes). But there isn't much on this earth (above ground, anyway) that's going to survive a direct hit from an EF-5 tornado.

My dad saw the track left by one that hit in Alabama years ago. The thing sucked up everything, including grass, in a 1/2 mile wide path. The only thing left behind was orange clay. There wasn't a single intact structure left, not even foundations.

Closest thing humanity has to a EF-5 -proof structure is probably the pyramids in Giza, and I'm not sure about that either.

Re:Tornado *resistant*... (2)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about 7 months ago | (#45043737)

If the tornado left behind clay then you can pretty sure that a shallow dome-shaped building with concrete walls (or thick clay walls for that matter) would survive.

I would think the key to building a completely and utterly tornado-proof building is building it out of heavy materials that are hard for the wind to pick up and making sure the airflow over the building remains smooth and free of turbulence. You want smooth, flowing exterior surfaces. You do not want flat walls and corners that create turbulence.

The hard part is coming up with a practical and reasonably priced home that would also be completely tornado-proof. There are lots of good practical and economical reasons why most houses are more or less shaped like cuboids.

Re:Tornado *resistant*... (3, Insightful)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 7 months ago | (#45043981)

Joplin Hospital begs to differ. Yet, it was still standing and moved by all of 4 inches (which, however, was sufficient to make it uneconomic to repair). People died either because they couldn't be moved away from the windows in time (being in a bed in a hospital). Or because they depended on ventilators for breathing that lost power due to wind/hail/rain damage on powerlines and emergency backup.

Reinforced concrete is perfectly sufficient to withstand an EF-5. Unfortunately, most buildings in the US are made of reinforced cardboard.

Live (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45043495)

"But it would not be a place you'd want to live."
If you live in tornado alley, you might beg to differ with the above statement!

Concrete (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45043515)

I should thing that a heavily reinforced, hardened concrete structure could have mush thinner walls.

Re:Concrete (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 7 months ago | (#45043569)

I should thing that a heavily reinforced, hardened concrete structure could have mush thinner walls.

Nah, walls made of mush wouldn't work.

Third world countries have it right. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45043521)

A lot of third world countries tend to build their homes in concrete or adobe brick. I think that's pretty impressive. Sure, it doesn't look as elegant as a spanish suburban home but who really cares about modernization when you have practicality? Plus, give me a home without windows and I'll be really happy. I really hate windows, and it's much better to not have them than to have them at least IMO. Maybe I just have a thing for dungeons, I don't know but what I do know is that if I want to see outside I go outside. So give me a practical house that is cozy and I'll be a happy camper. Oh, don't live in a camper in tornado valley, everyone knows what happens to campers during tornado season.

Re:Third world countries have it right. (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 7 months ago | (#45043607)

"Plus, give me a home without windows and I'll be really happy. I really hate windows, and it's much better to not have them than to have them at least IMO."

We know. The newspapers pasted all over windows were a dead giveaway.

Re:Third world countries have it right. (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 7 months ago | (#45043757)

Aluminum foil. Not only does it give the illusion of no windows, but it keeps the alien mind control beams out.. Well, at least from coming in the windows. :)

Re:Third world countries have it right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45043787)

It is a matter of engineering problem as you know the wind speeds based on previous weather history and can add safety margins.
A lot of places in Asia where there are a dozen typhoons every year do not seem to have that problem. If there are flooding, add more drainage!
I have a picture of a Hong Kong street intersection in the tourist area that have no less than 20 drainage.

Re:Third world countries have it right. (1)

Pikoro (844299) | about 7 months ago | (#45044525)

True. I am sitting in Japan right now, and we are having a typhoon. We expect another one tomorrow. (seriously, check the weather reports). No issues with buildings blowing down here. Steel reinforced concrete will stop any problems with wind you might have. Granted, it won't float during a flood, but at least after the waters recede your house will still be there :)

The house I am in is constructed of wood. We used 2x6s instead of 2x4s and 2x10s instead of 2x6s. Hurricane ties on the roof, asphalt shingles, fiberboard siding. House has lasted through at least 20 typhoons in 10 years with zero damage. Just build your house right and it will survive.

... made of plywood (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45043533)

wake up usa, whatever you do, you are still retarded.

Re:... made of plywood (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 7 months ago | (#45043579)

You are the idiot. If you think brick or even cement block stands up to a tornado much better than plywood, you know nothing about tornadoes. Your ignorance is tolerable, but not when compounded with arrogance.

Re:... made of plywood (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 7 months ago | (#45044261)

what's the difference between cement and concrete?

and sure it stands up to strong winds much better than plywood.. unless of course you're building using plywood thickness bricks which is a bit silly. for one it has more weight to keep the whole thing from flying away.

anyways, shantytowns get fucked while brick neighborhoods don't. regularly around the globe.

hows timber? actually 10" thickness composite/plywood would probably work fine too. at least better than trailer homes.

Re:... made of plywood (1)

russotto (537200) | about 7 months ago | (#45044581)

what's the difference between cement and concrete?

Cement is a binder, concrete is an aggregate made from cement, sand, and stones (and often other materials). "Cement block" is really concrete.

Concrete blocks are obviously going to stand up to tornados better than plywood, certainly in terms of debris resistance. If you're building a tornado shelter you'd run rebar through the voids and fill with cement mortar so you have a solid structure.

Re:... made of plywood (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45044857)

[W]hat's the difference between cement and concrete?

Concrete is cement combined with an aggregate — pebbles, sand, crushed rock, gravel, etc.

I think this is old news (2)

TomGreenhaw (929233) | about 7 months ago | (#45043561)

I met a guy who built homes by pouring concrete into Styrofoam forms with rebar. After that it was brick veneer or siding outside and the usual stuff on the inside. He said they also tied the roof using the same materials they do in hurricane prone areas. He said homes like this had been hit dead on by tornadoes and other than broken windows and superficial damage were essentially unharmed. This building technique also make a very energy efficient home.

Re:I think this is old news (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 7 months ago | (#45043597)

Cite? Not that I doubt you, but I'd be interested in details, whether it had been tested, what strength tornado, etc.

Safe rooms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45043573)

The almost new public library near my house has the restrooms designated as tornado shelters. I suspect that means the walls and roof is heavily reinforced.

It should also be possible to create a core room that's protection from a variety of evils from crazed killers to poison gas and bombs exploding nearby. The Israelis build such rooms into a lot of new construction.

Done once before (1)

Provocateur (133110) | about 7 months ago | (#45043583)

...and the engineers said almost the same thing but their design was a strucutr that looked like a pyramid

Well, the pharaoh's still there sleeping, isn't he?

Re:Done once before (1)

PPH (736903) | about 7 months ago | (#45044667)

Well, the pharaoh's still there sleeping, isn't he?

Nope. They failed to make it archeologist-proof.

They had that designed back in the 40's. (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 7 months ago | (#45043585)

Richard Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller had built several that are tornado and hurricane proof. He made several concrete dome homes that have taken the worst that nature can dish out and only need minor repairs.

Heck they are sharknado proof.

as a design exercise, sure (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 7 months ago | (#45043599)

It's an interesting challenge, and forces architectural 'entrpreneurs' to think through some of the relevant issues.

However....I'd guess that the best that will come from this is a few decent ideas that *may* make things a little bit better. I hope so anyway.

For example: it's a market fact that people are willing to spend very little $ on pure safety features. Witness the great swathes of country where a basement or even simply storm cellar would radically increase the chances of tornado survival....and yet people still don't use them. A storm cellar is a TRIVIAL cost; with a backhoe and some 4x4's or larger timbers, one could be built in a couple of hours. With a couple of strong backs and shovels, a couple of weekends (digging sucks).

Of course, the idea being out there that there is a "tornado proof home" has a couple of drawbacks; most certainly these homes are carefully specc'd and designed....meaning an unscrupulous developer could build homes that 'look a lot like them', sell them as 'tornado-resistant' but in fact using substandard parts that make them even more lethal. Further, there's always the 'false sense of security' problem: instead of sensibly taking cover when timely warning is received, an owner of such a house is likely to rationalize "Ah, my house is tornado proof, I'll just stand out here taking youtube video until the last second!"

Finally, the fact is that almost nothing above ground is tornado proof. At best, you're buying yourself some percentages against small and medium tornado activity...which for a given house, in reality, is a vanishingly unlikely occurrence even in tornado ally.

Basements in San Diego (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 7 months ago | (#45043623)

Does anyone know if this type of soil is why houses don't have basements in San Diego? I don't live there, but even locals don't seem to know why.

Re:Basements in San Diego (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45044499)

Expansive clay is very common in southern California. In San Diego, you also have the delightful Schweitzer formation (that's the light colored, almost white, band of basically hard mud, in between the other more reddish rock layers), which, when it gets wet is about as strong as grease. Build a big house on top of it and it slides when it gets wet.

If you want your house to stay put in Southern California, and you are on a hillside that is geologically bad (e.g. most of Malibu or Hollywood hills), what you do is put posts or concriete piers well down into the underlying rock (50-100 ft). You can drive big steel beams, or drill 2 foot diameter holes and fill them with concrete and rebar. And even then, if the whole hillside comes down, your house comes with it. It's not much different than building in downtown London on the Thames or in the Bayous, you're building on something that is fundamentally unstable.

But the reason we don't have basements is because it does not freeze. If you live in an area (Maine, NoDak, etc.) where the ground freezes in the winter, your foundation has to go well below the freezing line. Where it does not, 18" is enough of a foundation footing depth to hold the house in place, and you can do that with a backhoe, or a shovel. BUT, where you're needing to down 8 feet, a narrow trench is a lot harder to dig than a big hole. Hence the basement.

In SoCal (and in TX, OK, etc.) the most popular construction technique these days is what's called "post tension slab". You pour a 4" thick slab (with 18" deep footings around the edges and a few across the middle). There are big steel cables through the slab. After the concrete is partly cured, you use a hydraulic jack system to tension the cables, putting the concrete under compression (for which it is very strong).

Since concrete is weak in tension, you never want to have any part of the slab in tension (e.g. from bending.. where one side is in compression and the other in tension), so by putting a net compression on it, the "outside" of the bend (normally loaded in tension) is still under compression, just less of it.

This is very different than the "monolithic block" technique of much thicker concrete and rebar. The traditional technique can be as strong, but tends to get small cracks (the rebar doesn't take up the tension load immediately), and is a lot more expensive: more steel, more concrete. And more heavy, aggravating the "slide down the hill" problem.

Interesting but (2)

kilodelta (843627) | about 7 months ago | (#45043625)

I watched a video some time back about a hurricane proofed house. It looked pretty much like a standard house. But when that thing shuttered up it was sealed TIGHT. And I do know that Stanley of all companies designed a nail that would not just tear out of wood, thereby lessening the chance roof components could be lifted.

You can build a structure to combat hurricanes and tornadoes - but it isn't going to be THAT cheap. Given that fact I have no intention of living anywhere beyond the northeast U.S. None! Sure, we get a little geologic action from time to time, and hurricanes get here about once every 30 or so years though the cycle seems to have been shortened lately.

24 inch concrete walls earthquake proof? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45043669)

"If you made a perfect earthquake structure, it would be a bunker with 24-inch walls and one small steel door for you to get in,"

I call bullshit, concrete is to brittle. You need something to absorb the energy.

20 years ago (1)

Saethan (2725367) | about 7 months ago | (#45043765)

My grandma bought a house 20 years ago in Topeka, KS, and had the entire thing reconstructed. She still couldn't get a basement, so she had steel-reinforced concrete put around her closet. Bam. Tornado-proof-house-in-a-house. This is a non-story.

Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45043827)

"If you made a perfect earthquake structure, it would be a bunker with 24-inch walls and one small steel door for you to get in," says architect Michael Willis. That structure would be based on the empirical measurements of structural engineers.

This is bullshit. They guy talks like someone who doesn't have a single clue about what he is talking about. This, on a guy who boasts having designed a structurally sound home, is clearly a sign he is incompetent.

There are whole civil and structural engineering departments dedicated to studying and modelling dynamic actions on civil structures, whether from earthquakes, wind and even bomb blasts. No one who has a clue about designing structures to face those kinds of actions relies on "empirical measurements". Technologies such as the finite element method and boundary element method are a standard part of any curriculum for decades now, and the only time a civil/structural/mechanical engineer comes close to an empirical measurement is to validate and corroborate results obtained from numerical models. You know, the kind of stuff supercomputers and workstations were developed for, and still are. /structural engineer, whose curriculum included courses in structural analysis, finite element method, structural dynamics and building structures, and both earthquake and wind actions were extensively covered.

Bad idea. (1, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 7 months ago | (#45043851)

It will let people survive to rebuild in an area unsuitable for human occupation again and again. They will take our tax dollars through FEMA again and again. Unless people are asked to pay full price of their decisions, such shelters would lead to more financial pain, tax burden to others. People who decided not to live in plywood boxes in tornado country, or in wildfire area or below the sea level between a lake and the sea, or below the river level etc should not be asked to shoulder the burden of supporting people who made foolish decisions on where to build their homes. One unexpected natural disaster? We all should pitch in. But supporting unviable habitation through taxes, insurance subsidies, and disaster relief on known and predictable disasters distorts the marketplace.

You want the freedom to live anywhere in America? Go for it, and pay full price for it. No disaster relief, no insurance subsidies. FEMA should annonce phased withdrawal of tornado support in known tornado regions, wildfire suppression in scrub country, flood insurance in known flood prone areas, or hurricane relief in known hurricane prone coastal areas. Emergency relief is only for areas where the disaster is very infrequent. It is not a routine operation.

Probably the right solution for tornado country is to stop the stupid urban sprawl, create towns with a nucleus of concrete condos, two or three stories tall, tightly built in a circle with a pool and courtyard in the middle. Windows with aluminium shutters that can be closed, cars parked at ground level below these condos. You need concrete structures to survive tornadoes and do the compromise necessary to do it. Or pay full price for freedom. I am sick and tired of supporting your unnatural life style choice to live in plastic and plywood boxes in tornado country.

Re:Bad idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45044861)

Look, I'm the first to bitch about people building on cliffs and beaches being hit by the obvious consciences of living in luxury and expecting a handout. That does not translate to the people living in tornado alley. Plenty of those people farmers. This is not living in luxury, it's farming some very good farmland. You want to empty out 5-7 states of excellent farmland?

Probably the right solution for tornado country is to stop the stupid urban sprawl, create towns with a nucleus of concrete condos, two or three stories tall, tightly built in a circle with a pool and courtyard in the middle. Windows with aluminium shutters that can be closed, cars parked at ground level below these condos. You need concrete structures to survive tornadoes and do the compromise necessary to do it. Or pay full price for freedom. I am sick and tired of supporting your unnatural life style choice to live in plastic and plywood boxes in tornado country.

Oh, you just didn't read the article.

already employing the cost effective solution (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 7 months ago | (#45044127)

paying tens of thousands of extra dollars for something that probably won't happen is a waste. better to play the odds and have low cost houses, sometimes a minute amount of people will die *shrug*

Reminds me of the Kettle House (1)

safetyinnumbers (1770570) | about 7 months ago | (#45044311)

Presumably intended to handle hurricanes and flooding instead of tornadoes, the kettle house in Galveston TX is an inverted metal dome, (although I don't know why it has a door at ground level).

Ask the Air Force (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 7 months ago | (#45044427)

They probably have some Minuteman Missile Silos being decommissioned , they would be tornado proof.

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