One family's new Florida home emerges unscathed from a brutal hurricane season, thanks to modern building methods.

By Ben Brown
January 18, 2005
Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

During last year's hurricane season, Fort Pierce, a town onFlorida's southeastern coast, was ground zero for Frances andJeanne, two of four storms that wrought devastation on the state.The Peed family's new home, tucked off the Intracoastal Waterway,was hammered by the storms' 100-mph-plus winds and driving rain."You could see waves crashing in our front yard," says Brooks Peed.The experience, he admits, "was eye-opening."

So if any family knows what works in storm-resistant housing,it's the Peeds. When they bought property in the historic enclaveof St. Lucie Village a dozen years ago, they first lived in a homethat had stood waterside since 1907. Then Brooks, his wife, Lori,and their three daughters decided to build a new house on theproperty. From the outset, they impressed upon architect LynnSilkworth that they wanted to retain the historic structure's OldFlorida feel. Particularly, Lynn says, the family wanted toincorporate wide porches and overhangs and plenty of windows anddoors to bring the coastal environment inside.

Lynn knew the porches, if not engineered properly, could bevulnerable to high winds. And while the windows and doors welcomedsunlight, they also could be weak spots during storms if the rightproducts were not installed correctly.

To ensure that the new structure would fare as well as theproperty's century-old home, Lynn turned to modern technology. Totie the foundation to the walls and roof, he required some 100half-inch steel rods anchored in the cement foundation, threadedthrough the walls, and bolted into the rafters three stories up.When the tension on the rods was increased, the whole house becamelashed into one system anchored securely in the foundation.

Inside, the architect prescribed shear walls: plywoodreinforcement beneath drywall on either side of wall studs thatprevents structural twisting in high winds. And he made the pantryoff the kitchen a safe room, a space with no openings to theexterior and strengthened by shear walls.

A year after construction was complete, the Peeds decided tostay in their home during two fierce hurricanes. The family is notlikely to forget the sound of roofing nails popping out of asphaltshingles in 120-mph winds, Brooks says. While only evacuation canguarantee personal security in a hurricane, the architectural andstructural features helped spare the Peeds' home―andprotected the family. "We felt safe," says Brooks, who rode out thestorms in the pantry safe room.