Planning for survivability
In our Principles discussion, we talk about finding ways to build in, build for and adapt to provide ways to cope with Acts of God and like perils.
Floods and rains: Waterproofing and water-shedding around the foundation and building the house well up a hillside with attention to drainage in the grading are two measures for surviving floods; we essentially reduce the likelihood of them ever being able to reach us and (because floods tend to follow major rain events) build in an ability to shed the effects of those rains.
Lightning: We may need to rethink ourselves here. We do plan whole-house surge protection and we will be running all wiring through steel conduit. We haven't decided whether or not to create a major-league ground connection. (You do that by sinking a ground rod deep into the earth while trenching our radially to add electrically connected horizontal rods, and on installation day, soaking the hole and trenches with well-salted water for improved conductivity). If we get that far, we'll probably place air terminals (the contemporary term for lightning rods) along the crest of the roof line, connecting those to the ground with an appropriately sized braided cable. Also, we don't yet know whether the steel roofing should or should not be connected to ground.
Fire: There is a great deal of wood in this structure and we can't address it all with fire retardant or fireproofing treatments, but where we can't deny a fire its fuel we may be able to deny an internal fire its air. The house, its features and its automation incorporate a good many countermeasures against fires. Even before connected smoke or fire alarms actuate, thermal monitoring can identify pre-combustion heat levels as well as active combustion. The automation turns off all the fans and closes all the ducts, turns off the incoming natural gas line, alerts the fire department, unlocks the front deadbolt, shows a front door display of where on the floor plan firefighters will find adults, children, infants or pets and where they will find hot spots. There's also an attic-mounted 200-gallon water tank able to feed the heat-triggered ceiling sensors whether or not there's power to the well pump.
Wind: Since the most likely damage from wind begins with lifted roofing and lifted siding, we are choosing materials for those that resist just about any speed or severity any wind is likely to ever bring. We do not have a direct defense against winds felling trees that could end up falling on the house, though the roofing and structural wall materials are stronger than most.
Extreme conditions can only be countered by extreme measures, and we're trying to avoid building a “house of fear” if that compromises our other priorities and principles. We won't claim to be invulnerable, but it's fair to say we're not totally unprepared.
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