A Coastal Home Is Built to Withstand the Severe Weather that Destroyed Its Predecessor


Since Hurricane Sandy, building officials in Rhode Island have been working to improve industry standards so the housing stock can become more resilient against high winds and water damage. Caldwell is helping to lead the transition by delivering New England’s first participant in the Tampa, Fla.-based Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s FORTIFIED Home program: a waterfront project in Matunuck, about midway between Westerly and Narragansett. The Westerly beach project preceded the introduction of the FORTIFIED Home program, but Caldwell says it meets all the requirements. The owners can obtain FORTIFIED Home designation any time after project completion. Doing so might qualify them for a home insurance cost reduction.

Caldwell says roof installation on a FORTIFIED Home calls for a little extra attention to detail. He uses extra-long ring shank nails to attach the roof deck, then tapes all the seams and applies a reinforced, synthetic underlayment that keeps out water and ice as an alternative to felt paper. Even if roof shingles blow off, water still isn’t getting into the home.

the owners of the Westerly home, a retired couple from South Carolina, were not afraid to put a little money into making the building stout and durable after their previous home was destroyed by the storm.

The owners of the Westerly home, a retired couple from South Carolina, were not afraid to put a little money into making the building durable after their previous home was destroyed by the storm.

Nothing about the Westerly beach project increased complexity of design or supply-chain management, including the use of solar shingles. Caldwell says solar was actually a last-minute addition, one he could handle on pretty short notice because it did not alter the roofing system design. He sourced the solar shingles and accompanying underlayment from Coventry, R.I.-based Coventry Lumber, the same supplier that handled the other building materials for the project. The only word of caution, Caldwell says, is that solar shingles can be slippery, so be careful when installing them in bad weather or wait until conditions clear up.


Although the solar shingles on the Westerly beach house were designed to blend into the roofline and match the color of the surrounding roof shingles, the homeowners will have no trouble spotting an impact on their home energy costs. Robert Sherwood, a senior project manager at the energy consulting firm CLEAResult, based in East Greenwich, R.I., says the solar shingles helped reduce the project’s Home Energy Rating System (HERS) score from 60 to 36, resulting in substantial energy savings each year.

The HERS index is a tool created by the non-profit Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), Oceanside, Calif., to report on energy efficiency in new and existing houses. New homes can attain a score of 0 to 100 with lower scores for more efficient buildings. Sherwood says a score of 75 corresponds loosely with the threshold for meeting the new energy code in Rhode Island, and a home would have to score in the low 60s or lower to achieve ENERGY STAR certification.

According to Sherwood’s analysis, the solar shingles are expected to produce 21.4 million Btus (6,276 kilowatt-hours) per year. This level of output would reduce energy costs by $920 a year, and if the homeowners consume energy at the anticipated rate, the savings from solar would offset 59 percent of the utility bill. Anyone who installs a solar electric system can claim a 30 percent federal income tax credit. After monetizing the credit and collecting the expected annual energy savings, the solar shingles would pay for them- selves in four years and continue generating energy at no cost for at least 20 years.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, sustainable home builders in Rhode Island are demonstrating that durability and efficiency go hand in hand.

Roof Materials

Solar Shingles: Apollo II Solar System from CertainTeed Corp.
Asphalt Roofing Shingles: Landmark Designer Series, color Pewterwood, from CertainTeed

PHOTOS: CertainTeed Corp.

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About Matthew Hirsch

Matthew Hirsch is principal at Hirsch Media Services, a Berkeley, Calif.-based business communications firm with deep roots
in the energy industry.

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