Whether you live in a V Zone, or if you are simply interested in modular home construction for it’s renowned stability and strength, today we are attaching an illustration from FEMA which explains the V Zone requirements for coastal structures. V zones are generally located near areas subject to hazardous tidal flows (waves) such as the ocean.
The challenge for architects like ourselves is to make sure the homes we design safely adhere to all the governmental requirements, are beautiful to the eye and function perfectly for the comfort of your family.
We are Coastal Specialists. Our designs are guaranteed to comply with current regulations in your area. We get it right the first time so you can be in your home more quickly than you ever dreamed.
If you are thinking about building, or rebuilding, a home near any body of water, this article may of tremendous importance to you.
We, at Douglas Cutler Architects, want to extend our sympathies to anyone who suffered home damage from Hurricane Sandy. We hope you are safe and getting the help you need to recover quickly.
In fact, we were worried about one of the houses that we designed and built in 2006 on a tiny island off the coast of Branford, CT in the Long Island Sound. It was right in the path of Superstorm Sandy so we called the owner after the storm was over to find out how she did.
This home, in spite of it’s perilous location, made it through the storm 100% intact.
The vacation house sits on slightly more than an acre and is only 10 feet above sea level but this record breaking storm caused a storm surge of 11 feet in Long Island Sound. The owner reported that his island was completely enveloped with 4 feet of water during the height of the storm, a little bit higher than it was during Hurricane Irene, but had a 2 foot wave action on top of the surge. Therefore, the water came within 2 feet of the underside of structure. (see the photograph above for visual detail)
Storm Resistant Architecture
The design of this home is “storm resistant” based on the latest engineering requirement put forth by FEMA. The FEMA regulations also required the design must resist 120 mph wind speeds and wave force on the foundation of 850 pounds per square foot laterally.
The design employed modular building methods comprised of 8 modules. Additionally Shear Walls were engineered in to the design to resist lateral loads cause by high winds. Special steel anchoring systems were carefully planned to resist wind forces as well.
The foundation was designed with reinforced concrete and shaped with a concrete “mat “foundation. Mat foundations are designed to help mitigate “underscoring” from the movement of the ocean. The connections of the reinforced concrete piers to the mat foundation were designed to resist significant lateral forces of a storm. Special Thanks should be given to Ocean and Coastal Consultants Inc. and ED Pons LLC for their roll played in the engineering.
Storm resistant windows are always specified into the design as well to give maximum protection to the building envelope. Our firm plans and coordinates all design issues into a finish design that is aesthetically attractive.
No home can be made 100% storm proof. But with the modular home technologies available today, we can design and build homes on the beach, rivers, or lake fronts that can stand up to the worst that Mother Nature has to offer.
We are excited to share another success story by Modular Architecture. From sunny and windswept Westport, MA which is located in lower Cape Cod, this structure, is everyone’s dream home and hopefully will inspire you to design and build a modular home of your own someday.
Doug Cutler, AIA, founder of Modular Architecture, has joined us to answer a few questions regarding this home and its the modular design advantages.
Q. Welcome Doug, tell us about your customer’s dream for this vacation home.
Doug Cutler: A doctor and his family of several young kids, wanted a vacation home with spectacular views. We are building a modular home for them that turns tradition on it’s head – sleeping rooms on the bottom, living area on the top – so that the family can take advantage of the breathtaking views from about 30 feet off the ground. On a clear day they will be able to see Martha’s Vineyard and Cuttyhunk.
Family Area Installation
Q. Have you started the construction phase?
Doug Cutler: The home was set earlier this month and should be completed by midsummer 2012. By completed we mean that the furniture is moved in and the lobsters, dripping with butter on one of the beautiful decks, are being served. There are carports beneath the piers, 4 bedrooms with 3 baths, decks and an open floor plan on the top. The lot is small, 1/4 acre or less. Modular design makes it very easy to build quickly but the real advantages go even deeper.
Q. Doug, tell us about the FEMA Wind Zone Requirements in terms we can all understand.
Doug Cutler: FEMA regulations always supersede local zoning. That means that the government determines how we build homes in each area of the country. This property is in the worst wind zone in the Northeast US. It is called the North Zone and it is on the lower arm of the cape. Because storms can be so severe in this area, (remember the Perfect Storm?) we had to design this vacation home so that it could resist winds of up to 120 mph. That’s a lot of wind and a lot of pressure on any structure in its path.
Q. Okay. Can you tell us how this regulation was applied to this vacation home in Cape Cod?
Modular View from Family Area
Doug Cutler: We engineered and designed this vacation home with impact resistant windows to keep the residents safe from shattered glass in the event that they were unable to evacuate before a storm. If the home is, hopefully unoccupied, these windows will also protect the furnishings from wind and water damage.
This is only the beginning. In a storm with a wind load of this magnitude, the structural framing of the house is engineered in such a way that it can resist these forces, as well. We can do this much more effectively with modular homes since modular has redundancy in the framing. That is, because the sections that fit together but are built in a factory, we have double the materials in each place that fits together. One of these fits is called the marriage wall, which is a sheer wall that inherently resists sideways forces from the hurricane force winds.
Q. Well I feel safer already! What about wave damage? Are there requirements for this as well?
Doug Cutler: Yes, definitely. This particular customer decided to replace an existing structure on his property. The government is trying to enforce new construction rules and FEMA has studied paths of hurricanes and determined that this is how high above the high tide line to build the living floor and how strong the foundation must be to resist the wave action. So, when we tore down the bungalow, our replacement floor needed to be built 10 feet higher above that line than the previous floor. The higher the floor, the less the waves can get at it.
Q. Are there requirements for the foundation as well?
Doug Cutler: Yes. Our foundation is literally a pillar of strength. We put in a series of 18 concrete piers, each one 12 feet high that come vertically out of the ground. The home is then placed above these pillars. The pillars are about 18 inches square, poured with 500 pound reinforced concrete and adhered to the grade beam horizontal which lies 3.6 feet below the finished grade. This is code for the pillar depth and height in this area. And even though there may be local regulations limiting the height of home, FEMA regulations always supersede local zoning for safety purposes. Trust me, this is very strong.
Q. Well, it certainly all sounds very safe but what is the modular advantage.
Doug Cutler: Customers are often confused about the differences between building a modular home and traditional stick-built construction. Just remember that custom modular is simply a hybrid form of construction. The foundation is built conventionally. The rest is built in a factory except for the detailing. Even more important is that in order to meet code and get the safest home available designed to resist the main natural forces that exist, the architect must always lead in the planning. When is comes to strength you will have a super advantage if you call your modular architect first.
In September of 1938, one of the largest hurricanes to ever hit New England devastated homes all along her coastal waters. One of these homes, a mansion on 1.5 acre Sumac Island, just off Southwestern Connecticut, was sitting only 10 feet above sea level.
When the waters receded, there was nothing left of the mansion but the foundation, which sat abandoned for decades. Finally, the island was purchased in 2006 by a family wanting to build their own paradise retreat in the same spot.
The fear that another hurricane would devastate this island inspired the new owners to seek a home design virtually immune to water and wind devastation. “We knew nothing would be perfect,” mused the owner, “and that there would be more bad hurricanes in the future, but we wanted to live there and we had to try.”
They landed in the offices of Douglas Cutler Architects in Wilton CT, one of only a handful of firms specializing in high-end, modular-designed home construction.
Cutler and his team were inspired by the serenity of this small island and challenged themselves to create the perfect architectural compliment… a home that would draw the eye from the mainland, and at the same time dismiss the stigma of boring, boxy modular homes… forever.
“Our client told us they wanted to live on this island in style with their dogs and their boats,” says Cutler. “They did not want to wait three years to move in and, most importantly, they wanted their home fortified against mother nature with state of the art materials and construction.
The result was a 4,100 sf, Georgian style, custom modular home, built in a factory and delivered to the island on a barge. (see photo) “There is no doubt this home is gorgeous,” says the owner. “But what really surprised us was how quickly it was built (6 months) and how all our worries about building on an island just vanished. We were delighted with the entire process, something very few who construct a home from scratch will tell you.”
“Our commission required us to design the new building to the new FEMA regulations,” says Cutler, “with an open, reinforced, foundation raised up 16 feet above sea level in order to resist the ocean wave force of nearly 1,000 pounds per lineal foot. Furthermore, we designed the super structure to resist 120 Miles per hour winds. It was a challenge but definitely worth the effort as we all soon found out.”
Tropical Storm Irene strikes Sumac Island on August 27, 2011… at high tide.
With a new moon causing extreme tides, the sea level during Irene equaled that of the terrible 1938 hurricane. To make matters worse, wind gusts of over 85 miles per hour also made this storm devastating to the many homes on the mainland coast of Long Island Sound which received serious structural damage.
“So you can imagine our pleasure when our Sumac Island client recently contacted us with an update about how his island house performed in Tropical Storm Irene” says Cutler. “Apparently, the storm surge completely engulfed the island and the raging sea water came within 2 feet of the underside of his raised structure but our modular building performed perfectly. Even better, Irene’s strong winds were only able to whisk away some landscaping and a few pieces of architectural detail.”
“We are very pleased but not at all surprised, said Cutler. “This is what modular construction is about and, combined with FEMA regulations, we built them a tough, yet beautiful, home.”
“Our client couldn’t be happier… but not quite as happy as his insurance company” Douglas Cutler added, smiling as he pictured the relief. “This storm illustrates how modular construction, with redundancy of structure and shear walls designed to resist lateral force, has proven to be the very best, and safest, way to build a luxury home.”
We are so proud to announce that one of our homes has won the coveted HOBI Award for this year’s contest sponsored by Connecticut Builder Magazine.
Connecticut Builder had this to say about our work:
In Old Greenwich, Tim Muldoon of Twelve Development built this nostalgic shingle style home designed by Douglas Cutler Architects with Pella architectural series windows and a beautiful wrap-around mahogany porch. A covered breezeway leads to a two car garage. Tim had to appeal to the tow to have doors on the garage because of a tight FAR. The interior features honed white Carrera marble counters in the kitchen raised panel second story foyer with built-in cabinetry, living room with walk-out bay window, 10 ft. coffered ceiling family room and a two-story turret in the master bedroom that leads to the master bath, which won Best Bath Feature for the leaded glass window and moonlight cupola.
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