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Weathering the Superstorm: The Home That Stood Up to Sandy

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 and rebuild.

One of our houses, designed and built in 2006 on a tiny island off the coast of Branford, CT, was right in the path of Superstorm Sandy. When we called the owner right after the storm to find out how everything held up, we could only hope that all the measures we had taken to protect this beautiful home had done us proud.

This home, in spite of its 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.

Douglas Cutler

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