Port Charlotte, Florida

PATH technology helps homes stand up to Hurricane Charley

In Port Charlotte, Fla., the reminders of Hurricane Charley are everywhere. With uprooted palm trees, demolished homes, and buildings with their roofs ripped off, the trail of the Category 4 storm is unmistakable. In the aftermath, areas along Florida’s Gulf Coast are left with billions of dollars in damage and the daunting task of trying to rebuild.

With all of the destruction, it is difficult to find a silver lining on these dark clouds. But there it is on Douglas Road: three homes left practically unaffected by the hurricane’s 145-mph winds. Built by Home Front, Inc. for the Charlotte Homeless Coalition, two of the homes are completely intact, while the third house was only damaged when a nearby palm tree ripped up from its roots and landed on the roof, puncturing its membrane. Considering the damage to the rest of neighborhood, it was minor, requiring a one-day repair.

Owned by Brian and Jeanne Bishop, the Venice, Fla.-based Home Front, Inc. is a panelized home manufacturer and a state licensed contracting firm. What makes their product particularly appealing is the use of fiber-cement structural insulated panels that do not use wood or drywall. The wall panels consist of two sheets of 5/16th-inch cement board laminated to 4-inch polystyrene foam. The result is an impact resistant structure with a breaking strength of approximately 7,000 pounds, and an insulation R-value of 20.

Meanwhile, the roofs are finished polystyrene panels laminated to heavy aluminum skins. The panels are interlocked with each other and bolted to a ridge beam structure and the wall extrusion caps. Lastly, the keystone of the structures’ wind resistance is a steel interior frame, which also supplies the ridge beam for the roof. The interior frame system is a series of steel columns attached to steel imbeds in the slab.

When all of these pieces are put together, the result is a home that exceeds the Dade County building codes put in place after Hurricane Andrew and considered among toughest in the nation, according to Home Front. In fact, the walls and roof were tested in a wind tunnel and survived 9,000 wind cycles with wind speeds up to 200 mph with no damage after three missile impacts. With test results like those, it should be little surprise that the homes on Douglas Street are still standing tall.