In the wake of the astronomical amount of damage caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Klar and Klar Architects notes that sound, sustainable architectural design can prevent catastrophe for homes and other buildings during these types of natural disasters.
(Clearwater, FL) October 24 2017—Hurricanes Harvey and Irma left paths of devastation and destruction throughout Texas and Florida that are expected to run well over $150 billion in damages.1 As of mid-September, the National Flood Insurance Program, managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), had already paid out over $204 million in flood insurance payments for Hurricane Harvey alone.1 The National Flood Insurance Program estimates that payments for Harvey could reach $11 billion before all is said and done.1 Estimates for insured losses due to Hurricane Irma are anticipated to range from $25 to $35 billion.1
“We’re saddened to hear that so many families and businesses were devastated by the recent hurricanes,” noted Steve Klar, principal architect at Klar and Klar Architects. “We have also been very grateful to the numerous clients who let us know that they sustained virtually no damage from Irma, and took the time to thank us for the excellent job we did. It’s rewarding to hear that our meticulous care in the detailing of their projects paid off.”
Throughout the United States, 95% have homeowners insurance, which generally covers wind damage caused by hurricanes, but not flood damage.1 Meanwhile, in hurricane-prone Florida, only 18% of homeowners have flood insurance.1 The government will potentially help with personal grants and loans for those people who do not have insurance, or if their policy doesn’t cover some or all of the damage.1 As of September 14, 2017, FEMA had already received over 734,500 applications due to Hurricane Harvey and approximately 154,800 applications for assistance related to Hurricane Irma.1 At that point, FEMA had distributed $376 million for Harvey victims and approved $21 million for those affected by Irma.1
Even though there were areas hit hard by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma—such as below-grade construction sites and subterranean garages which sustained flooding—other areas remained unscathed.2 Residential neighborhoods that are built on higher ground and those with good drainage infrastructure had less flooding, with those buildings sustaining little or no water ingress.2 Structures that were built to be hurricane resistant fared very well and also sustained no flooding.2
As done in the case of many previous major hurricanes, the architecture community will take a closer look at building codes, zoning and land use regulations. Much like the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 hurricane that hit South Florida in mid-August of 1992, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma will potentially help strengthen the standards for building in states likely to have hurricanes. When Hurricane Andrew tore through South Florida, ripping the roofs off thousands of houses and flattening acres of homes in its path, Florida state building codes were rewritten to be the most stringent in the nation.3
For those people who are ready to rebuild their homes and/or businesses in Florida, Steve Klar suggests ensuring that proper precautions are taken during the design phase of the project. “Regarding hurricane velocity wind pressures, it is important to keep building components on the structure, and to prevent the structure from having any breach of the building envelope,” says Klar. “You do not want to ever have any openings in the roof, walls, doors or windows during a major hurricane.” Klar feels that the current Florida Building Code adequately addresses the minimum wind pressure requirements to safeguard a structure, but believes that there shouldn’t be relief anymore for structures that are not on the coast. He stated that since Charley hit Florida in 2004, wind and water damage is no longer confined to the coasts. “We all heard stories of many evacuating inland, only to be struck directly by hurricane force winds. No one in Florida anywhere should feel safe anymore especially after what we saw from Irma.”
Now, with climate change and hurricanes potentially being stronger, it is Klar’s professional opinion, that it is technically possible to upgrade the strength of your structure and components at minimal costs. “At Klar and Klar Architects, our extensive construction documentation and experienced engineering includes added details involving sealants, fasteners, waterproofing, upgrade components/hardware, and in some cases, even more structure to greatly increase the buildings’ stability.” Klar also believes that more clients after Irma, will consider alternative energy sources, including whole house generators, and solar photovoltaic with battery back-up. Not only do these precautions make it more likely for the structure to sustain only minimal damage during a hurricane, it can also help reduce insurance premiums, along with keeping your loved ones safe and secure—which is priceless.”
About Klar and Klar:
Klar and Klar Architects, Inc., is a full-service architectural and interior design firm located in the Tampa Bay area. Since the firm’s inception in 1992, Klar and Klar’s mission has been to enhance the culture of an area through design excellence and create and build an environment that will withstand the test of time. The firm’s aesthetic focuses on contemporary organic artistic design and integration of energy-saving technology. Roberta S. Klar and Steven Klar, the founders and co-principals of Klar and Klar, emphasize a team approach which enables each member to contribute ideas and creativity towards the goal of creating a superior product. In 2017, long-time employee Tim Knowles was added as a partner. Klar and Klar have won numerous awards, including the 2013-2014 Project of the Year—Structures Award by the American Public Works Association, the National Merit Design Award by The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO), the Excellence in Construction Award by the Associated Builders and Contractors program, and the 2011 Business Beautification Recognition Award—Homeless Emergency Project (HEP) by the City of Clearwater and Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce.
1Horowitz, Julia. “Hurricanes Irma and Harvey Have Racked up Billions in Damages. Who Pays?” CNNMoney, Cable News Network, 15 Sept. 2017.
2Sitz, Miriam. “Reeling from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Architects Focus on Rebuilding and Resiliency.” Architectural Record RSS, 19 Sept. 2017.
3Gomez, Alan. “Hurricane Irma Could Test Florida’s Hurricane Andrew-Inspired Building Codes.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 5 Sept. 2017.