reezes Cottage is located 210 meters above sea level in the Kalinago indigenous Territory on the north-east coast of the Commonwealth of Dominica.
Designed to be a guest cottage for vacationers to Dominica, Breezes Cottage withstood the Category 5 winds of Hurricane Maria on September 18th, 2017. It lost only one rain gutter, that which faced the Atlantic Ocean.
For its secondary purpose, the cottage was designed, built and fitted out as the owner’s hurricane shelter, taking into considering the potential of a destructive super-storm such as Hurricane Maria.
The cottage interior is open plan kitchen/dining and living area, with a hip roof which is the proper roof form that can withstand Class 3 tornado force winds.
The cottage was an idyllic guest cottage retreat for baby-friendly vacation breaks and educational or romantic escapes to the island of Dominica, until Hurricane Maria reverted its use to a temporary shelter both pre- and post Hurricane Maria. Due to its hurricane resistant strength, and the fact that the owner lost her own roof off her residence, it has now become the permanent residence of the client.
Breezes Cottage Super-storm Features:
- Solid stone foundation and base built on ‘Cut & Fill’ leveled site
- Hip roof – the standard for extreme wind events
- Fully integrated porch structure, structurally tied into the concrete walls of the cottage
- Roof rafters made of the toughest local hardwood (balatá), properly and fully cured to maximum hardness
- Hurricane straps applied at rafter ends and ends embedded into concrete roof perimeter
- Roof plate fastened with J-bolts
- Hurricane-proof windows
- To double up wind resistance, windows and doors were fitted out with hurricane shutters.
- Solar water heater (stood in as off-grid until electricity was restored almost 1 year later)
Post hurricane season 2017, Caribbean engineers have advised that structures should install increased protective measures – such as using hurricane proof windows together with hurricane shutters – above the current international standards.
Electricity to this area was restored almost one year post Hurricane Maria on the 4th September 2018. This fact makes it obvious that future planning should also include a full solar outfitting.
Features Added since Hurricane Maria:
The wind pressure during the worst part of the storm had threatened to rip a steel door open. Attempts to further secure it with ties proved sufficient but would remain risky in future. Therefore:
- A stainless steel pull door handle was installed to provide added strength against tornado force winds.
Condition Post-Hurricane and Damages Sustained:
- Gouge marks from flying debris and galvanize
- Atlantic Ocean facing rain gutter ripped off
- Electrical meter ripped off
- No visible damage to roof despite reports of objects violently hitting it
- Solar water heater intact
- Rear shed – also fastened with hurricane straps – undamaged
- Paint color noticeably stripped by wind and sea water
- Window silicone seals penetrated by water. Leaking was not due to incorrect installation of the windows nor silicone quality. Any Cat 5 hurricane with winds equaling that of a Class 3 tornado will penetrate every crack in a structure and all silicone seams.
Breezes Cottage passed the Category 5+ Hurricane test in excellent condition. Maria’s winds were 165 mph with gusts at 200 mph. The intact solar water heater, intact porch railings and pristine roof all surprised us.
Based on reports of the event, it became obvious that the full length porch facing the Atlantic Ocean served to buffer the strongest winds and provided added protection to all doors and windows on this facade. This welcome advantage was unplanned and therefore not intentional but is well noted in light of future planning for similar extreme wind events.
Since the owner lost the roof off of her own residence, not only did the cottage serve her well to ensure her survival, it has now become her permanent home.
IMPORTANT NOTE: It is important to note that there may not be any structure that is entirely hurricane proof, especially in a Cat 5 hurricane event which bring Class F3 and F4 tornadoes. A lot also depends on site conditions involving many other possible contributing factors. Flood plains, building on landfill, escarpments and locations tight against other buildings that can be compromised and send missiles in the direction of a hurricane shelter or even fall on them are all factors that increase the chances of compromise. There is also proximity to trees and the list can go on.
However, as architects and designers, we have an obligation to specify the use of the best quality materials even as Cat5 hurricanes can still severely compromise or destroy roofs. As architects and designers, it’s our job to specify, choose and install only the best products for the protection of life and property no matter what. As we search for the best materials, we also follow all updated international and regional guidelines in the course of our work.