Santorini as a model to reduce damage from hurricanes
Friday, September 2, 2005
I think we're all getting tired of these yearly menacing hurricane seasons. Those of us who have been affected by them all our lives know that they are a part of living in the Caribbean. Architecturally speaking, there are some things that we can do to reduce our worries about possible damage to our homes and businesses. It sometimes helps to explore new options for stronger buildings even if the examples are not from the Caribbean. Although there are no hurricanes in the Mediterranean Sea, there are great examples of buildings and homes that could withstand storm conditions.
The island of Santorini, Greece is full of excellent storm proof homes and buildings. They are constructed out of heavy reinforced masonry walls with concrete roofs. The concrete roofs can take many shapes, from barrel vaulted to domed as well as flat roofs with parapets. All their roofs are constructed with a slight slope for water run off.
Hurricane Ivan as well as other Caribbean hurricanes have shown us the weak point of a building is usually the roof structure. When constructing a reinforced concrete roof one has to weigh the positives and the negatives of this type of roof.
The negatives are: higher cost of construction due to the cost of concrete and reinforcing steel as well as the skilled labour and extra formwork required for the pouring of such a roof. Another negative is the possibility of future cracks especially on a flat concrete roof which can result in leaks during heavy storms. These leaks can be prevented with shorter spans between the beams and a thicker concrete slab with more reinforcing and a higher psi rating (exp. 4000 psi). It is also important to make sure that those crazy contractors keep wetting the newly poured concrete for a few days otherwise you will quickly notice cracks that could sink the Titanic (caused by the rapid evaporation rate). There are also a number of electrometric finishes which can be applied over the concrete as well as applying grout and floor tiles to make it water proof. Another element to plan for is the sunís constant heating of the slab which would quickly transfer inside the dwelling space. This could also be avoided by spraying foam insulation (as seen in the photo) or by painting on a few layers of white or metallic paint mixed with a product called insuladd which is added to the paint to give it a strong R-value of insulation.
The benefits of choosing a concrete roof include increased structural strength against hurricane force winds. In late 1992 I went through Cat.5 Hurricane Andrew in a condo building that luckily had a 4Ē thick sloped reinforced concrete slab roof. We experienced no leaks or damages while every adjacent development had excessive damage to their roof structures. Since then I have become a strong proponent of concrete roofs. Other benefits range from using the concrete roof tops as functional terraces and or solariums. These roof top terraces can be topped with trellises, vegetable gardens, tanning decks or can be a great place to gaze at the stars while sipping on a Cuba Libre.
The added square footage is also a plus for resale value, realtors love more square footage. These Greek examples can be modified to stylistically be more Caymanian looking. Just a quick visit to the great house at Pedro St. James can show any skeptic that heavy masonry is truly native Cayman.