25 July 2013

Coming Soon: Aerodynamic, Retractable Tornado-Proof Homes that Look Like
Something Right Out of 'The Jetsons'

What if your home could protect itself from dangerous weather 
by retreating underground automatically long before it hits?

This is for my storm-battered friends in Oklahoma...

If you think about it, a house -or entire neighborhood/town- that could withstand higher winds than boxy, frail wood structures -and actually hide underground if necessary- could have one heck of a lot of applications: not just in tornado alley, but avoiding fires in California, tsunamis in Japan, or of course hurricane season in the Carolinas.

Why build an expensive underground shelter only to watch your house and belongings be scraped from the face of the Earth, washed-away,
or turned to ashes?

A Hong-Kong firm called '10 Design' seems to see a market there, and with the aid of hydraulics, sophisticated sensors, solar power, and a wind-tunnel designed shell, the entire tornado-proof home could retract quickly into it's own special basement when necessary.

Says Ted Stevens -a design partner at the firm: 'There's nothing accidental about these storms -they're going to come- and the buildings should be responsive'.

But the tornado-proof home not just a project of whimsy: The movement of the house could depend upon kinetic mechanisms commonly found in garage doors, portable campers and sail boat hulls. In concert with other high-tech bits, hydraulic levers are activated by high-velocity winds that pull the house safely underground.

When the home is below ground level, the pre-cast concrete roof rolls overhead to make it water, wind and even fire-proof. Once danger has passed, the house simply unfolds and residents can go on living... with landscaping their most pressing concern. 

The design team for the projects sees a future where entire neighborhoods of these homes constructed in tornado-prone areas. Each house's sensory data would link to the rest of the neighborhood, offering a network of early warnings for oncoming storms.

A preliminary cost study found the homes would run about $300,000 per single unit... not too crazy, depending on where you live- and the value you place on your life/possessions. Naturally, they expect the price to drop significantly after the team simplifies the design and production is ramped-up. The design team expects to be selling them in as little as two years from now- even though they look like something out of 2050.

To me, the detection and automation alone would be preferable to standard shelters simply due to the early warning mechanism: even if you have a place to go now, you have to be VERY aware -them twisters bear down quickly- and get your butt down there.... even then you might lose almost everything you've got, including other family members.

What a neat design... shouldn't we be working on this in OUR country?

10 Design   Weather.com   Maggie's Notebook

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