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A group of builders in the Clearwater, Fla., area, backed by an insurance consortium, has built three, experimental, "fortified" homes in Florida that they believe will resist natural disasters such as wildfires, floods and high-wind storms. If successful, the techniques used may be spread nationwide.

The goal is to saves lives and property damage. Aside from the obvious life-saving benefits, the insurance industry hopes to reduce home damage and pay outs from natural disaster claims.

Builders believe the homes will be only marginally more expensive than standard homes.

So far three, 1,700-square-foot houses have been built, each one in the $160,000 price range. Depending on which strengthening features are installed, the additional cost is between $7,400 and $14,200.

"Just as gated communities and state-of-the-art security systems afford home buyers with peace of mind, 'fortified' upgrades are yet another option that can be incorporated into the construction process for those home buyers concerned about high winds and storm damage," said Rodney Fischer, executive director of the Contractors & Builders Association (CBA) of Pinellas County, Fla.

Some of the features are fairly simple: Doors are protected by small porches or alcoves to keep the wind from hitting them full force. Other features are less obvious, like having sealed roof joints so that if wind does rip off part of a roof, it wouldn't necessarily mean water would leak into the main portion of the house.

The construction features generally are beyond what is required by local building codes. The three homes built so far in Tampa include a combination of fortified construction features, including:

  • Non-combustible roof materials that are also better able to withstand high winds.
  • Windows, skylights, and patio doors protected by shutters or using impact-resistant glass.
  • Securely anchored exterior structures, such as carports and porches.
  • Reinforced entry and garage doors.
  • Building site and landscaping techniques that reduce wildfire and flood vulnerability.

    The homes are being built with support from the Institute for Business & Home Safety, which is a non-profit entity supported by the property-casualty insurance industry.

    The three homes built so far have been designated as "Fortified Florida," a designation the insurance industry hopes will justify the higher price of the home. It also may qualify home owners for a slight reduction in their premiums.

    If the homes prove popular in the Tampa area, the "Fortified … for safer living" program will be introduced statewide and nationwide in the next few years.

    For more information see: https://www.fortifiedhome.net.

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