Hurricane-resistant homes rising

Myrtle Beach Pelican Willie James swung his baseball bat into a window used in a new kind of hurricane-resistant building.

It cracked but didn't shatter.

The infielder swung three more times with little success.

"I just can't believe it didn't break," James said.

Experts say winds up to 140 to 150 miles per hour won't hurt the homes being built in Sienna Park at Grande Dunes.

They're the first in South Carolina to meet the "Fortified ... for safer living" standard, developed by a nonprofit trade association, the Institute for Business & Home Safety.

The group designed the standards five years ago in Florida and certifies homes in seven other states, Chief Operating Officer Doug Raucy said.

"Our homes in Florida have so far had indirect hits of 100 to 115 miles per hour with no damage," Raucy said.

Fortified homes are built with better connections between the roof, walls and foundation and impact-resistant windows and doors or a shutter system, Raucy said.

While the homes cost more, some insurance companies give discounts for homeowner policies. The homes also are more energy-efficient than homes that don't meet the standards, experts say.

S.C. Farm Bureau Insurance Co. offers a 5 percent discount to homeowners who build to Fortified standards.

Classic Home Building & Design Inc. heard about the standard a year ago and decided to make it part of the homes it builds on the Grand Strand.

"We wanted to be on the leading edge," said Berkley White of Classic Home Building.

In South Carolina, the standards are designed around wind and flooding, Raucy said. Other areas use standards to withstand hail and tornadoes.

It's not only upscale homes that can be built to the Fortified standard. Raucy said his group has built Habitat for Humanity Homes that are Fortified. Indeed, any homeowner willing to pay 2 percent to 4 percent more can have the extra safety, he said.

IBHS uses independent inspectors paid for by the builder to inspect the construction process several times and certify that the home meets the Fortified standards.

The window that James could not break is manufactured by PGT Industries. It is made of heavy-duty vinyl with impact-resistant laminated glass.

"These are six times thicker than your car windshield," PGT Industries corporate development director Gary Stokes said.

Stokes said the windows also are energy-efficient and quiet. "You will not hear a lawn mower go by," he said.

The walls are built with Insulated Concrete Form by AMVIC Building System - expanded polystyrene blocks that are poured with concrete.

It's not the kind of wall you can tear down and add a new room, builders said.

"We predict 25 percent of residential homes will be built with concrete walls by 2010," said Paul Camozzi, senior accounts manager for AMVIC.

Home buyers Earl and Carolyn Anderson are excited about their Fortified home.

"I wouldn't live in a hurricane-prone area if it weren't for these houses," Carolyn Anderson said. "I feel very comfortable moving into this home. We're having fun watching it be built."

Classic Homes will continue building Fortified homes in its next Grande Dunes subdivision of 92 homes and then on homes in Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island, White said.

600450 Hurricane-resistant homes rising

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