August 16, 2006

Hurricane-Safe Housing Unveiled in Village?

Hurricane-proof housing? Homes free of mildew, mold and termites? Houses that are fully insurable, even in designated flood zones?

As the East End readies for the possibility of being hit by a hurricane, there's a company on the horizon aiming to introduce a building system geared toward withstanding natural disasters and revolutionizing the industry for future homeowners.

But, although Oceansafe Housing by Southeastern, a Dix Hills, New York-based firm, has unveiled its cutting-edge technology in states such as Louisiana and Mississippi, which were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, to date, none have been introduced in the northern United States.

To that end, the company has proposed a demo home be erected in Greenport's Mitchell Park in September, so residents can see firsthand a building system offering security in the event of a life-altering hurricane.

And, said Greenport Mayor David Kapell, Oceansafe Housing has promised, after the demonstration, to donate the home to a local family in need.

Oceansafe Housing sports a technology that prefabricates construction projects, either residential or commercial. "In the case of Greenport, what they're talking about is a manufactured house that's comprised of material that has a foam core sandwiched between sheets of metal," said Kapell.

Oceansafe Housing President Joseph Basilice, a Greenport resident, said he chose the village to premier his building products because he wanted both to give back to the community and to offer residents at risk during a hurricane a peek into promising changes in the building market. Traditional materials such as wood "are just not going to make it anymore," said Basilice.

Oceansafe has worked with Southern states ravaged by hurricanes as well as not-for-profit organizations to help rebuild shattered homes.

Oceansafe products are pre-engineered and lab tested to withstand 160-mph hurricane force winds and are both mold and termite-proof. Best yet, said Basilice, the homes are insurable, with many companies offering an insurance credit for building with Oceansafe. That's crucial "for people on Long Island, whose insurance rates are going through the roof."

And the homes are affordable — for the shell, including the windows, doors and a roof, the price averages approximately $49 per square foot. "That's 20 to 25% less than traditional building materials," said Basilice.

He said areas hardest hit by hurricanes have been embracing the technology, which features a component system utilizing materials such as various types of honeycomb or expanded polysterene (EPS) that can be easily constructed even by unskilled laborers. At a recent trade show in Biloxi, Mississippi, said Basilice, "We were the belle of the ball."

As a Greenport resident, Basilice wanted to introduce the technology in his "home area."

And although a contractor will have to complete the home with walls and siding, and appliances will need to be installed, Oceansafe is donating the shell of the home, including windows, doors and roof, which "will be absolutely free" to one resident chosen by local officials.

Kapell said Oceansafe decided Mitchell Park was the ideal place for a high-profile demonstration: "Why not? As long as someone ends up with a home?" he said.

A lot would need to be chosen for the home, and other details still need to be ironed out, the mayor noted.

The proposal was well-suited for a village that has been embracing hurricane emergency preparedness, said Kapell. "Not only will the home benefit a family, but residents will be able to see a technology that might have applicability in a place like Greenport that's prone to hurricanes. In the Hurricane of 1938, half the village was underwater," he said.

The Greenport Village Board of Trustees is expected to vote on Basilice's proposal following a presentation on Thursday.

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