The Home Store in the News – Why Modular Homes Survive Tornado

Modular Homes Survive Tornado Unlike Surround Stick Build Homes
Numerous stick built homes were leveled after a rare tornado ripped through a West Springfield, Mass., neighborhood last year, while two modular homes survived the tornado in the same neighborhood with minimal or superficial damage.

A tornado last June has once again proved why systems-built technologies — in this case modular housing — is considered one of the strongest and most resilient types of residential construction.

Since 1986, Andy Gianino, a Massachusetts-based home builder, has been singing the praises of modular home construction, and his beliefs were validated when a rare but powerful tornado tore through the town of West Springfield, Mass., leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

Huge pine trees were ripped from owners’ yards and homes across the countryside were leveled —except for two modular homes that Gianino built.

One, directly in the tornado’s path, escaped the twister unscathed, except for some roof shingles that were blown off. The other sustained minimal damage mostly caused by flying debris.

Gianino, who owns and operates The Home Store, based in Whately, Mass., estimates that he has built 1,150 modular homes over the past 25 years. As a trained and licensed psychologist seeking a different career path, he was drawn to modular construction because of its ease and speed and the superior quality and durability attained in a factory-controlled environment.

“Factory-built homes get inspected a lot,” Gianino, an NAHB Building Systems Councils (BSC) member, said. “Independent third-party inspectors ensure they are built to local building codes every step of the way. This makes for better, stronger houses.”

Building Systems Homes 3; Nature 0

Log Home Survives Tornado Unlike 27-inch Tree
Except for a few broken windows and damaged gutters, this custom log home withstood a 110-mph tornado in Deltaville, Va., that toppled a 27-inch diameter pine tree onto its roof.

Other building systems — which include concrete, log and panelized homes — have also withstood Mother Nature’s wrath.

In April 2011, a log home in Deltaville, Va., survived a tornado intact while three traditionally built homes and a church adjacent to the log home owner’s property were destroyed.

The tornado toppled a 27-inch diameter pine tree onto the roof but did no damage to the log shell, manufactured and built by Log Homes Council member StoneMill Log & Timber Homes. As further testimony to the tornado’s power, the owner’s stick-built shed was torn apart during the storm.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina left a devastating and lasting footprint on the Gulf Coast. But a home manufacturred by BSC Panelized Council member Deltec Homes stood strong.

Though the Ashville, N.C.-headquartered company doesn’t claim to build a “hurricane-proof” house, it says the strength of panelized construction and the home’s circular design enabled it to withstand Katrina’s category 5 winds and a host of other tempests over the years.

Concrete homes are particularly popular in states such as Florida, where sudden and harsh weather is the norm. The thick, sturdy walls simply hold up better when faced with sustained 100-mph winds and driving rain.

Why Building Systems Are Stronger

Systems-built houses generally are engineered to be stronger than their site-built counterparts.

For example, the modular homes Gianino builds use 2×6 framing, triple headers above the windows, a double-perimeter band for the floor, a multifaceted fastening system with screws in addition to nails and other reinforcing measures. The modules are built and engineered to withstand the rigors of being trucked to the job site and hoisted into place by crane.

“Once they’re erected on the property, these same features inherently make modular homes stronger and more durable than most site-built homes,” Gianino said.

The modular technique results in other benefits, as well.

In a two-story home, the enclosed “box” construction creates a double-layer between stories. This not only adds strength, but also improves insulating values and reduces sound transmission between floors.

Gianino is the author of “The Modular Home,” which is available from NAHB BuilderBooks and in its bookstore at the 2012 NAHB International Builders’ Show in Orlando next month.

Videos of the homes that survived the West Springfield, Mass., tornados can be viewed here.

To learn more about the advantages of building systems, view the Building Systems Councils’ concrete, log, modular and panelized videos; download the free online brochures; visit www.nahb.org/bsc; or call the Building Systems Councils at 800-368-5242 x8576.