The Best Kind of Rock to Live Under

Author: Brian

Florence Liang

For over 125 years, the United States had not witnessed a hurricane as devastating as Idalia. Yet, as the world continues to industrialize, we feel the effects of climate change through such disasters. Without the urgency to enforce climate-aware guidelines or curb consumerism’s expansion, the human race has sought other ways to mitigate the effects of emerging climate backlash. Look around the “splash zone” in areas like Florida and Texas and you might see a sight reminiscent of the home of a beloved pink starfish.

With the projected costs of hurricane aftermath set to increase, citizens are eager to reduce the impact of a hurricane to the smallest extent possible. Engineers have invested years in studying the most optimal structural, architectural, and practical implementations required in hurricane-risk areas.

During a hurricane, older homes are at the highest risk of losing their roofs. This is because increasing wind speeds cause more air to seep into the crevices of the house, exerting pressure until the building cannot withstand it, and the roof pops off. New building codes sought to address this; however, they were enacted in 2007, leaving older homes vulnerable.

In contrast, newer homes adhere to numerous code requirements in order to ensure the safety of those living within. In Florida, windows are sheathed, flexible, and some are even reinforced with Kevlar (the material in bullet-proof vests) to ensure they don’t break or allow air to seep in. Likewise, garage doors are also reinforced. Modifications like these can cost homeowners over twice as much as regular building materials. 

Arguably, one of the most cost-effective and unique hurricane-proof designs is the utilization of geodesic homes. Invented by Walther Bauersfeld in 1926, these homes harness the aerodynamic properties of a spherical shape by minimizing wind resistance, ensuring structural integrity even in the most extreme weather conditions. Examples include common circular houses, dome roofs, and notably, homes analogous to Patrick the Star's underwater dwelling.

Patrick’s home is a perfect circle when viewed from the top, exhibiting a symmetrical design. Similarly, real-world geodesic homes often feature radial symmetry, with trusses extending from a central column. Furthermore, some of these homes are entirely encased in a layer of plaster or fabric (depending on their location), mirroring the exoskeleton of Patrick’s dwelling. However, the terrestrial realm can't rival the magical buoyancy of water that allows his home to float at will, so houses on land are anchored down with specialized nails.

Even with these safety measures in place, hurricanes continue to be disasters for many around the world. Several government agencies, like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continue to provide emergency hotlines and resources for those impacted by disasters. 

In the span of less than two months, the states have seen three major hurricane events—Hilary, Idalia, and now Lee—ranging from windspeeds of 50 mph to almost 130 mph.  The anthropogenic impact on climate change is only just beginning to manifest itself, emphasizing the urgency of adopting innovative and resilient designs inspired by none other than the wise inhabitant of Bikini Bottom, Patrick the Star. He serves as a reminder that inspiration can emerge from unexpected sources, leading to groundbreaking solutions for hurricane safety.