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Why Do People In Tornado/Hurricane Zones Still Build The Same Destroyable Houses?

 
Andrew Michaels
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This may be a dumb question from someone who has never lived in an earthquake/hurricane/tornado zone, but I've been wondering for years, why on earth do people who live in these disaster-prone areas continue to build houses which are easily destroyed in natural disasters?

Take a dome home. There are many varieties, but companies like Monolithic are popular: http://www.monolithic.com/

Their domes stand up to hurricanes quite well: http://www.monolithic.com/stories/duponts-monolithic-dome-hurricane-shelter

And Tornadoes: http://www.monolithic.com/stories/monolithic-dome-home-survives-missouri-tornado

And Earthquakes: http://www.monolithic.com/stories/earthquake-safety

The domes are often of a comparable price to normal homes stick-build homes in many cases.

Although there are no models as cheap as you can buy a camper for, there are some fairly low prices cabin domes: http://www.monolithic.com/topics/cabins-model15

Now this is just one example. There are about a million other building styles/companies/techniques that are resistant to disasters, but year after year, decade after decade, all you hear about is how these stick built homes are being destroyed by disasters.

WHY!?

It seems so wasteful to keep rebuilding these houses which are not well suited to their environment.

I can at least understand energy inefficiency, but I can't understand this.

They know the disasters are coming, so why do they just keep doing the same thing over and over again?

Surely they must think when their houses are destroyed the first time, "Hmm, I should research alternative home designs to see if there's a better option for when I rebuild,"

...But it doesn't happen. They just rebuild the same damn house the next time.

What am I missing here? Can they really be this dumb?



 
Tom Rutledge
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It comes down to math, risk and perception.

The risk / reward of a safer house is not seen as a worth it.

The cost (time , money , energy , ridicule) of building a emergency safe domicile is going to cost more. Those dome houses look funny to most people.

The natural disasters tend to strike every generation or so. Rather rare when compared to how often Americans move about 11 times in a lifetime. http://www.census.gov/population/www/pop-profile/geomob.html Maybe once every 7 years or so.

The liability of having a funny looking home that cost a bundle, that is still under mortgage, that no one will buy from you is seen as a larger problem than getting a free new house after the insurance money pays out.

It makes sense if your disasters are further apart than you'll expect to live in the home. Which makes no sense to lots of permiculture people because they are thinking, well permanently. The average American anyway is something like $10k in credit card debt and living paycheck to paycheck. With a 14 day economic event horizon, even the questions of doing it right don't make sense.


Tens of thousands of lives would be saved a year in the USA if we'd all stop speeding... but we don't seem to be doing it. Same sort of thing.

 
Dan Wallace
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I live in the CA Bay Area (earthquake zone) and most homes are 80-100 years old. New homes have to meet strict codes and are likely to survive an earthquake. Older homes need retrofitting
 
Elizabeth Day
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Where I'm from most people don't build their own homes and the companies who do build them are not always local. There aren"t really repercussions if there's any kind of storm damage. The company has long since sold the house and has no liability unless they did something that isn't up to code. The people who buy the houses assume that these houses are safe since they meet code. Tornadoes are rare occurences, You can live in Tornado Alley and go your whole life without seeing one so it's easy to put the fear out of your mind until the storm comes.
 
Elisha Gray
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Location: Sussex County, NJ
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I can't speak for earthquakes because I've never needed to deal with one. But overall the craftsmanship/quality of work put into the house make a huge difference. Modern buildings fare a lot better because code in those areas require things like hurricane ties, which in essence are meant to hold the roof down if wind gets underneath it during a storm (structurally speaking most roofs are held down by their own weight, nails and such just keep them from moving around relative to the structure).

A dome seems like it has less edges that would allow storm winds to get underneath it, but I still think quality of work is still going to be one of the most important factors if you expect a building to stand against the elements in time. Usually the homeowner is deeply involved with the construction of alternative buildings, which naturally impacts the quality of work.

Insurance requirements (like mandatory flood insurance), really become a strong incentive to rebuild a home even in the worst locations. Areas near me flood annually, after one big storm an owner was out shopping for new bedroom furniture because "her house flooded again, this is the 4th year in a row!".... 5ft of water in the first floor of the house, 4 years in a row is a damn good sign that your house is in a poor location. But to her credit, its almost impossible to sell a house with water damage that bad so her only option may have been to keep rebuilding until they could sell the house.

Houses don't need to last forever to be sustainable, recognizing the impermanence of the structure might lead to a more sustainable design... Very little economic damage is done if a tent gets blown over in the night. Consider the following:







 
R Scott
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Mortgage and insurance. Plain and simple.

If you want a mortgage, you need a house that is seen as "normal." And by normal they mean they can fit it in their form AND find 3+ identical "comps" that have sold recently in the area to determine the "value."

And with insurance, you need to build back the same structure if you want them to pay you. And you are in a hurry to get a roof back over your head, so you take shortcuts.

You are stuck in a vicious cycle...

 
Dale Look
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For the same reason people in flood plains keep rebuilding.
 
Jordan Lowery
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does anyone know what the native Americans of the plains did when it came to tornadoes? did they have the knowledge to "predict" them and move on first. after all they only had tipis for the most part.
 
Brenda Groth
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insurance companies let them..they need to have different insurance rules..such as..

if you are at risk for the same type of situation, maybe we'll have to improve your home to be less of a risk

here our poorly designed wood furnace failed in a power outage..and our ins co is buying us a new wood furnace, but this one has protection against power outage damage..an upgrade..and they were happy to upgrade it..it will be installed in May
 
Darren Couch
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My ex father in law used to own an earth shelter construction business near Wichita KS, that went belly up after about three houses. He said when he'd go to fairs and such to pitch his business, people would tell him if they were going to spend 30% more on the construction cost, they wanted people to see the opulence.
 
Jason Long
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Some islands folks look at hurricanes and such as a time for cleaning, rebuilding, and rebirthing. There is a name that they call hurricanes, but I can not remember. My friend who grow up in the carribbean was telling me about it. They see the hurricanes as a fresh start by tearing down old, weak structures. They see pass the destruction and into the beauty a hurricane, earthquake, or other natural occurrence has to offer.

Isn't that amazing? I was raised with the fear of losing everything you worked for, losing your lives, losing your livelihood, and losing loved ones because of these events. However, certain people who are not in this rat race are thankful and grateful that all of that terror had happened. I like that life!

Anyways, that is not the point of this thread.

It's better for business if you through something up quick and get out. When the next hurricane comes rolling through, the contractors have lots of jobs opened for them.
 
Jean SmilingCoyote
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I've got some ideas. For one, many people in tornado-hit towns don't have any formal education in meteorology. They think that, since such destructive tornadoes only hit that place once every X# years on average, their house is not "due" for another for X# years. This isn't how weather works, but they don't know. People in the Oklahoma City area are more experienced, and have more "safe rooms." But Woodward, Oklahoma, which lost 6 to the last tornado, had a previous fatal tornado only in 1947. That apparently is too long ago to teach uneducated people.
It's worse than people being persuaded to build Monolithic Domes. Most don't even want to consider extra-thick rectangular reinforced concrete, which can look like any other ordinary house but will take at least an EF3, possibly EF4.
It gets worse. Joplin, MO, was so eager to facilitate rebuilding after its EF5, that: "It even resisted the temptation to make "safe rooms" a condition of rebuilding." [Wall Street Journal, 4/13/12]
And it gets even worse. A woman in Harrisburg, IL, who was away when her trailer home was destroyed by the tornado in 2/12, was gifted with: another trailer home!
There are stories about buildings, even big non-residential ones, being rebuilt to the exact same plans as the ones which were destroyed.
The difficulty in getting a mortgage for a Monolithic Dome does not apply to ordinary-looking rectangular reinforced-concrete construction which will withstand most tornadoes statistically expected to hit it, ever. It certainly doesn't apply to a "safe room" inside a flimsy new wood balloon-frame house.
Ignorance about weather is necessary for all this to happen, but not sufficient. What lets this happen is a combination of insurance companies, governments at all levels, and government aid which has no teeth. I think government aid is the most likely place to grow some teeth. Safer rebuilding should be a condition of getting aid. I've already appealed to my elected representatives at State & Federal levels to pass some laws to this effect.
 
Jean SmilingCoyote
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Jordan Lowery wrote:does anyone know what the native Americans of the plains did when it came to tornadoes? did they have the knowledge to "predict" them and move on first. after all they only had tipis for the most part.


Someone who'd BTDT told me that the tipi will actually take a weak tornado, better than an ordinary house. The shape is fairly streamlined, and it's staked down pretty well, with a rock holding down the rope from the vertex. These people spent a lot of time outside during tornado season, so could see a very far horizon in all directions, and bad weather developing - and they could strike camp and skeedaddle pretty fast, no thanks to NWS warnings. If you're in a tipi at night, you're also going to become quickly aware of suspicious weather developing, through both sounds and smells and winds and temperatures and humidity changes.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Jordan Lowery wrote:does anyone know what the native Americans of the plains did when it came to tornadoes? did they have the knowledge to "predict" them and move on first. after all they only had tipis for the most part.


The plains Peoples were Nomads, they did not stay in one place for an entire year, they moved with the seasons to follow game, and harvest other foods.
This method of living tends to place the people out of harms way for most of the time.
If a big blow did come to where they were camped, it would have been ridden out.
We do not look at life and death the same way as European decent people do.
We look at life as something to be cherished each day, you never know when it is your turn to go to the sprit world.
We look at death as just the next step in the journey, not something to be feared but also not something to look forward to, it is simply the next step forward on the journey.
 
Dan Boone
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It's all about being poor. Solid costs more. Destroyable is cheaper.

What's more, the people living in destroyable homes aren't the ones making the building decisions in most cases. The house is built for immediate sale or rental, so it's built cheap. The builder or the would-be landlord doesn't care; he's insured.
 
Zach Muller
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Im with Dan, i think in cases around here its economics. When a trailer park is devastated in a tornado, which is more frequent than mansions getting struck, people are quick to judge. They forget about the hardships and lack of oportunity for education, job choice, housing choices that people are born into.
In the middle of the city alot of houses have never been touched by tornados, so a standard bungalow stands after 100 years without damage, it doesnt need to be an overbuilt dombproof shelter. About 5 miles away there are mobile parks that get hit repeatedly.

Look at moore oklahoma, with its track record for being destroyed by tornados why would anyone live there? Why would the city still build its schools with the lamest modern construction thats practically designed to blow away?
Money isnt exactly pouring in to small economies like that, which rely on people commuting to larger cities for alot of things. Its not as simple as people doing what is the best or the smartest, sometimes the limiting factor is not in your hands so you have to do something less than your best option.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Dan Boone wrote:It's all about being poor. Solid costs more. Destroyable is cheaper.

What's more, the people living in destroyable homes aren't the ones making the building decisions in most cases. The house is built for immediate sale or rental, so it's built cheap. The builder or the would-be landlord doesn't care; he's insured.


Yep!

and this:

Darren Couch wrote:My ex father in law used to own an earth shelter construction business near Wichita KS, that went belly up after about three houses. He said when he'd go to fairs and such to pitch his business, people would tell him if they were going to spend 30% more on the construction cost, they wanted people to see the opulence.


Many who can afford, want to look good more than be safe, especially when their nice houses are already built to good standards. As for the poor, it's hard enough having money to buy a house, let alone the money to build a house, let alone to build a durable house. We wanted to buy a piece of land and built our own house out of ICF concrete...only to find out that there was no way we could afford it. So, we bought a nice piece of property with a manufactured home on it.

Before we'd saved the money to buy a house, we rented a 80 year old home with mold issues, window painted shut, exposed wires, and crooked walls. If there were a serious earthquake during that time, we would have lost everything. But, it was all that we could afford and still save money to buy our own property.

Life is often about rolling the dice and trying to make the best decisions you can with what you have. When you have little, you don't have many choices .
 
Bryant RedHawk
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In Vilonia Arkansas most of the people didn't have tornado insurance because the cost is very high from the 2011 tornado, now that we are past the April 2014 tornado those costs have increased yet again.
Those who did have insurance, for the most part, took their settlement and moved on to other places, not desiring to have a third experience with tornadoes.
We have seen a reduction in population of over 500. Those who are rebuilding are doing so with the money from insurance and FEMA payments/ loans. This means they don't have the funds to build "Tornado proof".
There are also issues with housing development regulations, those set down for structure type and finish by the developer. In those developments you are stuck with the specifications in the bill of assurance and the developer's regulations.

Often it isn't just a money issue though that usually is one of the main factors.

When I was 5 years old a Tornado went down the middle of the street our house was on, I was nearly killed, many houses were demolished.
The owners rebuilt but had to stay within the development's regulations, so most houses that were rebuilt were just like the ones that were blown away.
I have seen the same set of situations with developments hit by Hurricanes, Floods and other Tornadoes.
I have lived through all of these disasters and helped with the cleanup in the aftermath, it is devastating to the mind of those who don't have the "stuff is just stuff" mindset.

It isn't always because people don't have the funds, it is sometimes because of a developer wanting a certain class or type of people buying their properties.
It can also be because of people trying to regain their sense of well being, Natural disasters can shake the very roots of a person's identity and sense of self.

I've never seen a "gated community" that would allow you to build what ever you wanted to live in.
I have seen people build 200 mph rated houses that didn't look like the shelter they actually were, but the cost is premium for that and in the end most are not going to spend half a million dollars for fifteen hundred square feet of house.
In Vilonia, the people that can afford it have installed either storm shelters or safe rooms designed to remain while the house is being blown away.
It will always be about money, prestige and what most people think of as "the good life", that is the American way in most people's minds.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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