Resilient Design: Six North American Homes Setting New Standards

When homebuyers make their wish list for a new house, they’re likely to include things like an open concept design, sustainably-sourced hardwood floors and daylight for optimal energy-efficiency. What they may not be worried about is resilience: how well their home can withstand hurricane-force winds, flooding, wildfires, or simply the repeated exposure to the elements over the years.

Alex Wilson, founder of BuildingGreen, says: “It turns out that many of the strategies needed to achieve resilience — such as really well-insulated homes that will keep their occupants safe if the power goes out or interruptions in heating fuel occur — are exactly the same strategies we have been promoting for years in the green building movement.”

Resilient design expands on the standards of sustainability and green building and includes strategies for disaster-preparedness, like an on-site emergency generator, impact-resistant windows and wall systems that can stand up to storm debris.

The following projects showcase homes that are designed with beauty and energy-efficiency in mind and are built to take what Mother Nature dishes out.

1. The Most Resilient House in North America

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The Resilient Design Institute named this Canadian home “the most resilient house in North America.”

Homeowner and builder Alain Hamel was driven to design the home after living through several weather disasters: flooding, an ice storm, and a house fire. Alain set out to design a house that would protect his family from future storms and devastation.

A combination of mineral wool and rigid foam insulation help the home achieve high-performance insulation which guarantees energy-efficiency and comfort, even when temperatures get below freezing in the harsh Canadian climate.

Additional storm safety measures include a 3.3 kW gas generator, in case of an extended power outage, and an air-source heat pump to provide backup heat and cooling. Exterior roller-shutters and deep overhangs provide storm protection, with the added benefit of controlling unwanted solar heat gain.

The home is also designed for the comfort and well-being of the owners, with radiant-floor heat tubing to deliver heat throughout.

2. Resilient and Sustainable Modern Design in a Harsh Texas Climate

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Architect and builder Khair Zaman of Z Works Design Build collaborated with the Dixon family to create a modern, low-maintenance, sustainable home that would allow them to live efficiently and minimize utility costs.

The goal was a building system sturdy enough to stand the test of time, but that wouldn’t require a lot of maintenance to keep the home looking beautiful. In a state like Texas, where the weather is unpredictable, it was also important to include top-quality insulation to maintain the interior temperature and make for a greener and more energy-efficient home. The integrated insulation of the wall system keeps the internal temperature of their house constant and their energy bills low.

The innovative Bautex Wall System also met resiliency standards with its laundry list of safety features:

  • Meets the FEMA 320 and FEMA 361 guidelines in storm zones with possible wind speeds up to 250 miles per hour.
  • Meets or exceeds ICC-500 and FEMA standards for debris impact.
  • Meets and exceeds industry standards for fire resistance.

The Dixon family also needed a natural water system, like a well or cistern. They decided on a rainwater collection system that provided better water quality than a drilled well. The 20,000 gallons of rainwater collected within the structure provides further insulation as well.

Using the Bautex system allowed the homeowners to maintain the home’s minimal, modern style and allowed them to integrate the rain collection system within the envelope of the structure.

3. Green Home of the Year

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GreenBuilder named this custom home in the Hamptons the 2016 Green Home of the Year.

After damage sustained from Superstorm Sandy, this complete rebuild incorporated resiliency measures that brought the design up to code and protected the home from future storms.

The “Sunset Green” stands 14 feet above sea level, exceeding local safety code requirements. An impact-resistant glass was installed throughout the home to prevent damage from any wind-borne debris. Walls underneath the home were designed to enable flood waters to pass through the home’s lower level without damaging the structure.

The project achieved LEED Platinum Certification and also features a resilient, environmentally sustainable landscaping design, with a meadow that’s home to native plants, birds and small mammals. The picturesque landscape also provides a natural buffer against storm surge.

4. A 3D-Printed Solution for Disaster-Prone Regions

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Keeping up with environmental challenges requires that we approach problems differently. That’s what Jason Ballard did when he introduced a 350-square-foot 3D printed concrete home this year in Austin.

Ballard is one of the co-founders of ICON, a construction technologies company. ICON partnered with the non-profit New Story to build the first permitted 3D-printed home in America, which it recently unveiled at Austin’s SXSW event.

"We can't rip our homes apart every time a storm hits Southeast Texas," Ballard said. "I would be shocked if anybody remaining in Southeast Texas had any confidence in two-by-fours and drywall after Harvey," he said.

The concrete was poured through a Vulcan 3D printer and put "through a whole battery of tests." They found it is more resilient than traditional construction materials.

"I didn't want the world to have to choose between having an affordable home or having a home that is beautiful, resilient, healthy and sustainable," Ballard said.

5. Strategic Design for a More Resilient Rebuild

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The village of Northfield, Illinois was recently designated as a floodplain after a flood-damaged most of the homes in the region, including this former Mid-Century Modern home. The home’s two-story addition had survived the flood event and has been built to flood safety standards. But the new owners preferred a Cape Cod style home which meant the rebuild required a strategic design program.

The award-winning team behind the rebuild, NextHaus Alliance, serves the Chicago metro area and specializes in resilient design, building “homes that can handle the powerful extremes of nature, from severe winds and storms to full-blown natural disasters.” A flow-through foundation now supports the two-story home, which allows water to flow under raised flooring.

The home’s interior is optimized for energy-efficiency and features LED lights, Energy Star appliances, and a whole house ventilation system. Solar thermal panels provide sustainable energy for hot water throughout the home and in the existing pool.

6. Floating Luxury Homes

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Housing startup, Arkup, has partnered with a Miami-based charter company to make their “livable yachts” available for rent and purchase in 2019. These floating homes are lifted by a hydraulic system, enabling them to withstand rising sea levels and Category 4 hurricanes.

The luxury houseboats are sustainable, too, and are powered by solar energy. A rainwater harvesting system collects water from the roof for fresh water. The structures require no fuel and are “zero emission, equipped with waste management” for an off-the-grid experience.

(Note: If you’re worried about getting queasy, the self-elevating hydraulic system was designed to prevent sea-sickness.)

Opportunities for a More Resilient Future

There is a multitude of approaches to creating more resilient housing, no matter where you’re building. From innovative solutions like 3D construction to a wall system that exceeds building code requirements, there are solutions for resilient design to fit any homeowner’s taste.

To learn more about disaster-proof building solutions, contact the experts at Bautex at in[email protected], (855) 922-8839 or sign up for updates on how Bautex Systems is transforming the built environment.