Editorial: Hurricane Season - Again
June 08, 2006
A version of this article appears in the Hurricane Season 2006 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
The hurricanes of 2005 left more than one million homes damaged, according to FEMA estimates. Some argue that the unusual strength and frequency of last year’s storms are the expected results of global climate change, and that we should be prepared to face similar challenges regularly from now on. Others say that the 2005 hurricane season proved nothing more than that storms naturally vary in intensity from year to year. Whichever you believe, rebuilding or retrofitting to withstand hurricanes—and the potential related flood damage—makes sense. I live in earthquake country; few here would argue that building to mitigate damage from the next earthquake— however unpredictable its timing or intensity might be—is a waste of resources.
Still, rebuilding and restoration uses resources, and those resources shouldn’t be used inefficiently.That’s why we have collected the best advice we could find on building or rebuilding to minimize hurricane damage.And as usual,we have stuck to dispensing advice that has been tried and tested. From new construction that weathered Hurricane Wilma to flood-resistant materials that have been thoroughly evaluated, the information we have compiled will help residents in hurricane- prone areas to weather the storms.
Characteristically,we are also emphasizing techniques that marry hurricane resistance and energy efficiency. Do you have to replace a roof? Then think of cool roofs, which have recently become available in a wider range of colors and materials (see “Cool-Colored Roofs,” p. 12). Are you trying to replace waterlogged insulation or simply adding insulation to a home in a flood-prone area? “Rebuilding Your Flood-Damaged Home” (p. 20) has some excellent recommendations.
We just received a letter from a very unhappy resident of southeastern Florida that shows the misery that can be created when hurricane retrofits are completed without considering energy efficiency. Due to hurricane damage, the roof of our correspondent’s townhouse fourplex had to be replaced. “They stripped off our TPO and its insulation.They replaced it with a single- ply torch down, mineral grain. Nothing below it, nothing above it,” the resident wrote.The whole family now has to sleep downstairs on the first floor, because the heat on the second floor is unbearable.“It’s 93ºF upstairs and summer is not at its hottest yet!” My hope, in creating this issue, is to convince landlords, builders, contractors, and homeowners that hurricane-related retrofits offer an opportunity to improve the comfort, durability, and energy efficiency of housing. That was also the intent of Progress Energy, who helped to support the publication of this issue—just one of the many energy efficiency initiatives the utility funds (see “Progress in Florida,” p. 3).
I recently attended a daylong energy seminar that concluded with a talk entitled “100 Katrinas:The Fate of America in the Global Warming Century.”The speaker, Joseph Romm, stressed that unless the United States rapidly adopts a radically different energy policy,we will all face high electricity and gasoline prices—and a rapidly changing climate. While I can hope that the speaker’s fears are overblown, I think that now, more than ever before,we need to restore or build anew with an eye on the future. That’s why I’ve included in this issue an article on constructing a home so that the residents can be comfortable for several days with no power (see “Passive Survivability,” p. 18). It’s not the future that I would have chosen to pass on to my children, but it may be what they get. Borrowing an adage from a club that I never did belong to, I suggest that we should work to always be prepared. The alternative—burying our heads in the sand—doesn’t sound very enticing, especially as the warmer, steamier days of summer approach, and with them the start of the 2006 hurricane season.
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