Why use pre-fabricated material in a country prone to hurricanes?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 28, 2011 6:45 AM GMT
    I find it baffling that in a country that is prone to natural disasters, like hurricanes, cyclones, floods and just about everything else the world can throw at it, uses pre-fabricated material and dry wall to build their homes.

    Now, first off, this is only an observation and I'm not criticizing the great people of the United States. icon_smile.gif

    Homes are blown away like they were made out of matchsticks. Here in South Africa, we use bricks & moarter and solid concrete. Some and I mean some homes are built using only hay and clay, but that's out in the rural areas. Our urban buildings are solid structures.

    Now you'd think that in a country that gets battered by awful storms every single year, they'd build their homes to withstand natural disasters.

    I'm really interested to hear your feedback and comments.
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    Aug 28, 2011 7:12 AM GMT
    We also have lots of seismic activity.
    Bricks and mortar crumble easily when the ground shakes.
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    Aug 28, 2011 2:18 PM GMT
    The US has always had an abundance of wood suitable for construction, which lowers costs. And even on the treeless Great Plains, where many tornadoes strike, taking wood by railroad and wagon to remote farmsteads was still easier than carting stone or brick. (Sears & Roebuck used to sell entire houses by catalog, shipping the kits to desolate places like North Dakota where they could be assembled by people with only basic carpentry skills, sometimes the owners themselves)

    And while pioneer days are gone now, in recent generations Americans have become gypsies, most of us not staying in a place for very long. No sense building a house for the ages if we're not expecting to age there. You sell it to the next occupant, who may then want to knock down interior walls, build additions, and extensively modify it, much easier with wood frame construction.

    We have plenty of TV shows that are entirely devoted to people updating & renovating their homes. It's becoming unusual to find an older house that hasn't been altered in some way from its original plan.

    And since little in the US is permanent, houses get demolished all the time to make way for something new, another residence or some commercial enterprise. Why spend the money to build a house to last 100+ years when it may be torn down in less than half that time?

    But there are exceptions, where special threats exist. Many of the newer structures in the Florida Keys are concrete & masonry, because of the hurricane and flooding threat. And 6 houses recently built that I can see out the window as I type this are masonry, although their roofs are wood construction.

    (Interesting note about the Old Town section of Key West: many of its pre-1900 houses are constructed from the wood of wrecked sailing ships. Before bridges interconnected the Keys the only way to bring things there was by ship, and stone was too heavy a load to be cost effective. The local area lacked construction wood, as well as the resources to make bricks and concrete in sufficient quantity for all the buildings. So lumber was shipped, and as wrecking was a principle industry due to the treacherous seas around there, many ships themselves supplied additional wood from their salvaged hulls. Ships carpenters did the construction, using joinery techniques that gave the houses a degree of flex combined with a ship's strength, which it's claimed has helped them survive hurricanes over the years.)
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    Aug 28, 2011 6:17 PM GMT
    IMHO...

    Building codes, private property laws, and all of the short-term economics which surround real estate and construction: These are some of the factors which drive the use of pre-fabricated products.

    Not safety. Not community resilience. Not long-term economics.
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    Aug 28, 2011 7:12 PM GMT
    I mentioned the phenomenon of wooden kit houses, once especially popular in parts of the US where building materials were scarce. Buster Keaton made a hilarious movie in 1921 called One Week, about a newlywed couple's tribulations in trying to begin their new life together, that featured such a house.

    The plot: Keaton's uncle has told the couple he's bought them a house as a wedding present. They go from the church to the address they've been given, and are dejected to see that their "house" is unassembled in crates (first photo below).

    And worse, unbeknown to them, the bride's jealous ex-suitor, whom she rejected for Keaton, sneaks over and changes the crate numbers upon which the assembly instructions are based. The results are seen in the second photo.

    Annex%2520-%2520Keaton,%2520Buster%2520(

    9608190_gal.jpg
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    Aug 28, 2011 9:31 PM GMT
    Prefab homes are often sturdier and can be made to better standards than their custom counterparts - with the idea that you can control quality, consistency and standards better in a factory than on site - ie you can build a standard foundation and basically think of the rest of the building as LEGO.

    The result is homes that are faster to build and cheaper to build but better quality.

    One quick reference: http://home.howstuffworks.com/prefab-house.htm
    Manufactured houses often get a bad rep. There's nothing like getting stuck behind a truck hauling half a house to get the jokes rolling. And "trailer-trash" is part of the modern vocabulary. However, just as Starbucks redefined coffee and "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" redefined game shows, "prefab" modules are redefining assembly-line houses. Those who favor them tout benefits like smaller price tags, better construction, increased environmental benefits and quicker move-in times. Prefabs are growing in size, too. They're no longer two-room cottages without indoor plumbing; modular houses can grow to thousands of square feet with multiple stories and basements. The prefab industry is expected to top $10 billion in 2007, according to money-zine.com. Plus, since Hurricane Katrina, prefab houses have gotten a boost as more attractive and sturdier alternatives to FEMA trailers.


  • conservativej...

    Posts: 2465

    Aug 29, 2011 1:37 AM GMT
    A good freind, who was former chairman of the Dade County Board of Rules and Appeals, and I spent some 3 hours discussing hurricanes after the string of tornadoes passed over central georgia earlier this year. It is amazing what similarities one finds between two totally different cyclonic storms: the tornado and the hurricane -- the latter also generate many tornadosf. None-the-less, building systems that survive and protect in the hurricane also typically survive the tornado. Oddly, many structures survive because they vent, not because of the material of which they are constructued.

    After Andrew I think it was, I had the pleasure of participating in research with the U.S. Air Force in developing housing construction methods for coastal areas. We ended up building, along with a partner, a good bit of the new base housing scattered across the southern U.S.

    One thing you can be assured of, they are not built with SIPS panels. icon_biggrin.gif
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    Aug 29, 2011 2:38 AM GMT
    As someone who grew up in both the US and in England, I always attributed the lighter weight construction standards in the US to a 'use and dispose' attitude that grew out out of a frontier mentality followed by rampant consumerism.

    Whatever the case, I don't think that pre fab homes are per se flimsy. Have a look at some of these homes


    http://www.rocioromero.com/


    They are specifically designed to withstand hurricane force wind.
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    Aug 29, 2011 8:39 AM GMT
    GAMRican saidIMHO...

    Building codes, private property laws, and all of the short-term economics which surround real estate and construction: These are some of the factors which drive the use of pre-fabricated products.

    Not safety. Not community resilience. Not long-term economics.
    Well that's daft!!!