Following up on our most recent post, Sandra Baron describes the process of building curved roofs and walls with today’s technology. We always enjoy pushing the envelope, but when our clients came to us requesting a design that…
As construction winds down on our house in Wellfleet, Sandra Baron discusses some specific coastal challenges that were overcome through careful design decisions.
The hot topic following a recent uptick in super-storms is how and even whether houses and other structures should be built in potentially hazardous coastal environments. In the case of our nearly-complete house in Wellfleet, we took the “how” question very seriously. Many key decisions related to the design and positioning of the house were made both to respect the native landscape and to ensure structural resilience and longevity.
The International Residential Code has made updates in recent releases to make certain that homes in storm prone areas will include this level of resilience, both in terms of withstanding high winds and being resistant to flying debris. We worked with the talented team of structural engineers at RSE Associates to ensure that the house, reinforced with a steel moment frame, will resist the strong 110 mph basic wind speeds as defined for Wellfleet in the Massachusetts amendments to the Building Code.
Furthermore, because the house is located well within one mile of the coastal mean high water line and is within a 110 mph wind speed area, it is part of a Code designated “Wind Borne Debris Region” and requires protection for all glazed openings. There are several tested and approved methods to protect the windows from windborne debris, but because the house will occasionally be lent to guests, we knew that the protection should be as easy to deploy as possible. Just as important however, the protection method needed to not compromise the aesthetics and architectural intent of the house!
With these challenges in front of us, it became apparent early on that there would not be one singular protection strategy to suit all needs, so we decided upon a combination of Andersen A-Series® impact-rated (laminated) glazing in those locations less prone to damaging wind-borne sand, and motorized roll-down hurricane shutters in front of standard A-series glass at the large windows facing Cape Cod Bay. The motorized roll-down shutters we chose from Shade and Shutter Systems, Inc. provide the added benefit of being an outer protective layer; not just holding shattered glass in place, but actually preventing debris and pitting sand from ever reaching the glass surface. This helps add to the longevity of the windows.
Detailing the glazed facades was especially challenging since wood and steel structure, window units, and hurricane shutters all had to be coordinated with one another so as to reduce the thickness of the columns between windows and maximize the view out to Cape Cod Bay. Our solution involved creating a box frame around the large groupings of waterfront windows that would enclose the hurricane shutter roll and also act as a sun shading device. The tracks for the shutters were then worked into the exterior trim at the window mulls.
The important lesson learned while designing and specifying protection for this house’s glazed openings was that these systems need not compromise the design intent. With smart choices in products and careful detailing, one can have both the desired aesthetics as well as piece of mind that the house and its occupants will be safe.