Some houses are being built to stand up to hurricanes and sharply cut emissions, too

Category : Science/Environment

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. shrug off / ʃrʌg ɔf / (phrasal v.) – to not be affected by something, usually considering it as not important or not a problem

    The doctor warned her about stress, but she shrugged off the warning and kept working without rest.

  2. wreckage / ˈrɛk ɪdʒ / (n.) – broken pieces that have been left of something, such as a vehicle or building, after being destroyed

    The team studied the wreckage of the airplane to know why it crashed.

  3. resistant / rɪˈzɪs tənt / (adj.) – not easily affected or damaged by something

    My smartphone is resistant to water. It didn’t break when I dropped it in the pool.

  4. kick in / kɪk ɪn / (phrasal v.) – to start to work or have an effect

    Fever medicines usually kick in a few minutes after taking them.

  5. catastrophe / kəˈtæs trə fi / (n.) – an unpleasant event or situation that causes destruction

    My 100-year-old grandmother has seen many catastrophes in her lifetime, including a pandemic and a war.


Read the text below.

Bonny Paulson’s home, with a rounded shape that looks something like a ship, shrugged off Category 5 winds that might otherwise have collapsed it when Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle five years ago.

Her house lost only a few shingles, with photos taken after the storm showing it standing whole amid the wreckage of almost all the surrounding homes.

Some developers are building homes like Paulson’s with an eye toward making them more resilient to the extreme weather that’s increasing with climate change, and friendlier to the environment at the same time.

A person’s home is one of the biggest ways they can reduce their individual carbon footprint. Buildings release about 38% of all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions each year. Some of the carbon pollution comes from powering things like lights and air conditioners and some of it from making construction materials, like concrete and steel.

Deltec, the company that built Paulson’s home, says that only one of the nearly 1,400 homes it’s built over the last three decades has suffered structural damage from hurricane-force winds.

But the company puts as much emphasis on building green, with higher-quality insulation that reduces the need for air conditioning, heat pumps for more efficient heating and cooling, energy-efficient appliances, and, of course, solar.

Other companies are developing entire neighborhoods that are both resistant to hurricanes and contribute less than average to climate change.

To reduce vulnerability to flooding, home sites are raised 3 feet above code. Roads are raised, too, and designed to direct accumulating rainfall away and onto the ground where it may be absorbed. Steel roofs with seams allow solar panels to be attached so closely that it’s difficult for high winds to get under them, and the homes have batteries that kick in when power is knocked out.

Paulson, in Mexico Beach, says she’s now enjoying energy costs of about $32 per month, far below the roughly $250 she said she paid in a previous home.

“I don’t really feel that the population is taking into effect the environmental catastrophes, and adjusting for it,” she said. “We’re building the same old stuff that got blown away.”

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • According to Bonny Paulson, people are not considering the effects of environmental catastrophes and that they are building the same old structures. Why do you think this is so (ex. lack of public awareness and consciousness, desire to cut construction costs)? Discuss.
  • What environmental disasters often come to your country? How are building constructions adapting to them (ex. strict building code, high-quality materials)? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • In your opinion, how have housing and building constructions changed over the years (ex. houses became more secure, designs are simpler)? What do you think houses will look like in the future? Discuss.
  • If you were to build your own house, what factors would you prioritize the most (ex. environmentally friendly construction materials, comfort the house will provide)? What factors would you prioritize the least (ex. aesthetics, costs)? Why? Discuss.
Category : Science/Environment