Some houses are being built to stand up to hurricanes and sharply cut emissions, too
When Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle five years ago, it left boats, cars and trucks piled up to the windows of Bonny Paulson’s home in the tiny coastal community of Mexico Beach, Florida, even though the house rests on pillars 14 feet above the ground. But Paulson’s home, with a rounded shape that looks something like a ship, shrugged off Category 5 winds that might otherwise have collapsed it.
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” Paulson said, recalling the warning to evacuate. Her house lost only a few shingles, with photos taken after the storm showing it standing whole amid the wreckage of almost all the surrounding homes.
Some developers are building homes like Paulson’s with an eye toward making them more resilient to the extreme weather that’s increasing with climate change, and friendlier to the environment at the same time. Solar panels, for example, installed so snugly that high winds can’t get underneath them, mean clean power that can survive a storm. Preserved wetlands and native vegetation that trap carbon in the ground and reduce flooding vulnerability, too. Recycled or advanced construction materials that reduce energy use as well as the need to make new material.
A person’s home is one of the biggest ways they can reduce their individual carbon footprint. Buildings release about 38% of all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions each year. Some of the carbon pollution comes from powering things like lights and air conditioners and some of it from making the construction materials, like concrete and steel.
Deltec, the company that built Paulson’s home, says that only one of the nearly 1,400 homes it’s built over the last three decades has suffered structural damage from hurricane-force winds. But the company puts as much emphasis on building green, with higher-quality insulation that reduces the need for air conditioning, heat pumps for more efficient heating and cooling, energy-efficient appliances, and of course solar.