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Following the storms of 2020, housing has been a challenging issue for many residents and business owners. The Resilient Housing for Southwest Louisiana project seeks to expand resilient and affordable housing for the region to help find solutions to this pervasive problem. One element of the project is a toolkit with practical strategies to help homeowners, builders, and organizations build new homes and retrofit existing homes to make them stronger. The Resilient Housing Toolkit takes a wider look at regional housing challenges, including strategies to mitigate flood insurance costs.
The LSU AgCenter’s LaHouse Research and Education Center Director, Dr. Carol Friedland and Extension Associate Emery DeSonier provided insights for homeowners who are interested in fortifying their homes or building a new weather resistant home. Some of the top takeaways relate to securing the home when it comes to windows, doors, roofs, and garage doors. For example, a sealed roof deck can reduce water intrusion by 90%, and small changes like investing in window and door protections, like storm-rated hurricane shutters, can make a home more resilient and potentially save money in the long run for an initial investment upfront.
“Damage done by recent storms highlights the need to invest in protecting the home and to consider building beyond the minimal code,” says Dr. Friedland. “The resources in the Resilient Housing Toolkit, especially when used as a system, result in structures better suited to face high-speed winds and driving rain.”
The FORTIFIED standard is an optional building standard that prevents damage from high-speed winds and can help keep a home intact during a storm. In August of 2021, Hurricane Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, devastating Grand Isle. However, homes in the area built to the FORTFIED standard maintained their structure and roof, weathering the storm and demonstrating the benefit of building to the FORTIFIED standard.
Another example of FORTIFIED homes being put to the test is when Hurricane Sally hit Coastal Alabama and the Florida Panhandle in 2020 with 100 mph winds, 2.5ft rain, and surge of seawater. According to an article in Business and Tech, Smart Home America President Julie Shiyou-Woodard reported that while the hurricane was devastating to many homes and families, of the nearly 17,000 FORTIFIED homes in the wake of the hurricane, 95% had little to no damage, had no insurance claims, and the FORTIFIED homeowners were able to reside in their homes unlike their neighbors.
The resilient housing toolkit by Just Imagine SWLA outlines many of the tips that lead to building back better or retrofitting existing structures to higher standards. A downloadable copy can be found at JustImagineSWLA.org.