Modular Homes: The Starting Point for Resilient Homes

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re·sil·ient
/rəˈzilyənt/

 adjective

  1. (of a person or animal) able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.

“babies are generally far more resilient than new parents realize”

synonyms:strong, tough, hardy;
  1. (of a substance or object) able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed.

“a shoe with resilient cushioning”

synonyms:flexible, pliable, supple;

What is Resilience?

From a housing perspective, resilience is the capacity of a home to adapt to changing conditions and to maintain or regain functionality during a disturbance or stress. It is also the ability to bounce back after that disturbance or stress. In general, the term resiliency refers to a building’s ability to withstand and recover from natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, and flooding. It also can extend to events like severe winter storms.

Why Design Resiliency into New Homes?

Whether its wildfires in the west, tornadoes in the plains states, flooding in the Midwest, or hurricanes in the southeast, we see it more and more. Mother Nature is impacting our homes. In the aftermath of this devastation comes the impact on the lives involved. Victims struggle to access basic necessities: drinking water, power, and transportation. Instead of finding new ways to helps victims recover quickly, why don’t we build our homes to just stand up to a disaster to begin with? To protect itself and the occupants from Mother Nature’s threats.

Implementing resilient design is the intentional effort to design buildings and landscapes to withstand both natural and man-made disasters. Making our buildings stronger is part of it. Another part is designing in adaptability and recovery. Making the building easier to repair and/or designing it to minimize the damage from an event. Remember, resiliency is also local or regional. You don’t design a home to withstand severe winter snow storms in Florida just like you wouldn’t build a home to withstand hurricanes in Montana.

Sustainability versus Resilience

Sustainability has been a term used in design for the last decade. Resilience is the term that seems to have recently replaced it. They are not the same thing. However, resilience can be an extension of sustainability and go hand-in-hand with it (with some minor tension between the two). Sustainability focuses on creating systems for the efficient use of resources while resiliency is the ability of a system to prepare for threats, absorb impacts, recover and adapt following persistent stress or a disruptive event.

In some cases they can complement each other. For instance, building a better wall assembly with no air leakage and better insulation makes a building use less energy. That makes it a more sustainable home while also helping it withstand major winter storm events keeping its occupants warm and protected longer in a power outage. Because resilient design begins with a disaster and tries to determine how to weather it and then minimize its negative effects, the solution created may not be the most sustainable.

The IIHS Fortified Program

The insurance industry’s Insurance Institute of Business & Home Safety (IBHS) has developed a program for homes constructed in a certain way to be designated as a FORTIFIED Home. Homes that qualify for this designation are upgraded to withstand storms and weather conditions for an area better than their non-FORTIFIED counterpart. Imagine if a storm hits while you are away and your family is at home. A FORTIFIED home is built to better protect your home and the family in that home with minimal damage.

RELATED: THE (R)EVOLUTION OF MODULAR HOMES

An example is the FORTIFIED Home requirement to tape the sheathing joints on the roof. In the event of a high wind storm coupled with a rain event shingles and felt paper are going to blow off of a home. With conventional construction, the gap left by H-clips means water drains down the roof and into the home. By taping these joints, the home is better able to withstand the event and recover faster. Instead of water saturating the home only minor water infiltration occurs. In studies done by IBHS a home with taped joints had insurance claims reduced by 80% and damage was minimized so as not to require the family to move out during the repair.

Homes built using modular construction have a decided advantage in implementing FORTIFIED Home requirements over a typical home built onsite. Because of the way modular homes are constructed, the ability to qualify for a designation is a minimal upgrade to keep your family and home safer in a storm.

In addition, the federal Department of Homeland Security has also created the Resilience STAR program, a designation modeled after the popular ENERGY STAR program that will be given to structures built to withstand disasters. The IBHS’ FORTIFIED standards will be used to determine who gets the designation.

Modular Homes: Built for Resiliency

Modular homes are built strong. The basis for modular construction is to build a home that meets or exceeds building code. However, the modules that make up a modular building are built off site and transported to that site. The effort of getting from a factory to the building site is about the equivalent of surviving a hurricane and an earthquake before a module ever reaches a jobsite. It is placed on a carrier, driven at 55 – 65 MPH on highways, over bridges, and around curves. It may have to navigate back roads or tight residential streets. This 20,000 – 60,000 pound module is then lifted in the air by a crane with 2 – 4 straps or cables and placed on a foundation.

The resiliency built into every module is displayed at every modular home installation. In most cases, a module will only suffer from minor if any dry wall cracks. Structurally, the modules are stronger than anything that is built onsite. Resiliency is then exponentially increased when each of the modules are then connected with lag screws, bolts, and/or straps upon final installation. The strong interconnections between modules make modular homes extremely resistant to wind events as document in the FEMA study following Hurricane Andrew.

Modular Construction is the way to Deliver Resilient Homes to the Masses

Modular homes built in a factory can implement consistent processes and construction techniques. The same resilient design features built into every modular home to withstand transportation and installation also means the home is built to better withstand natural and man-made events at the home site. Construction is regional. With the intentional implementation of additional specific upgrades, modular homes can be built quickly and efficiently to meet the resiliency requirements needed in any part the country. Modular construction offers the path to provide resilient homes for all home buyers.

About the Author
Ken Semler

Ken Semler

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Hi, I am Ken Semler the founder of Express Modular. I am passionate about this industry, our company, and the products we provide. Modern modular construction provides the ability to deliver healthy, safe, and energy efficient living spaces. Express Modular is a licensed builder/contractor in almost every state. I believe that modular homes provide the best way to deliver virtually unlimited design flexibility at the greatest value.

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