Stunning Proof of Importance of Disaster Resilient Housing

Thick concrete with rebar and steel cables. Extra tall pilings. And a roof meant to keep out the wind.

Those are the things that allowed one home in Mexico Beach, Fla., to remain standing even as Hurricane Michael obliterated most of its neighbors, reports Jim Dalrymple in an Inman blog.

The Sand Palace in Mexico Beach, Fla.

The home, dubbed the “Sand Palace” by owners Russell King and his nephew Lebron Lackey, was built in 2017, the New York Times reported. The two men reportedly used the house as a family vacation getaway, and rented it out when not staying there themselves. According to the home’s Facebook page, it sleeps as many as 10 people, has four bedrooms, an elevator, and sweeping views of the ocean.

King and Lackey, who did not immediately respond to Inman’s request for comment, told the Times that the home was built to withstand winds as high as 250 miles per hour — far above what was required by local Florida building codes that require homes to resist winds between 120 and 150 mph.

“We wanted to build it for the big one,” Lackey told the Times. “We just never knew we’d find the big one so fast.”

They achieved that level of resilience by relying on durable materials and fortress-like construction. The walls are made of poured concrete reinforced with steel and rebar, the Times reported. The home’s Facebook page also states that it employs insulating concrete forms, or ICF, a construction method that involves stacking a series of modular units, sometimes made of polystyrene or other lightweight materials. The units interlock and are then filled with concrete.

ICF construction emerged after WWII and involves pouring concrete in place at the construction site. It is generally more resistant to storms and other common household problems such as mold and pests than traditional wood construction.

The Sand Palace also sits high above the ground on concrete pilings that keep it safe from flood water and storm surge. The concrete extends deep into the ground

NASA imagery of Mexico Beach, Fla., shows the Sand Palace (center), surrounded by debris from destroyed buildings.

to anchor the building in place, and the roof reportedly is designed to block out wind so it can’t be torn away from the structure. All of the materials, down to the screws holding everything together, were chosen to withstand storms, the men told the Times.

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