[Ok-sus] The sustainability community and the recent tornado disaster

Shelley Smith canokie67 at gmail.com
Thu Jun 6 00:22:59 UTC 2013

You make a good point out of houses made of natural materials - when they
are destroyed at least they don't pollute the environment. My son
volunteered in Moore after the tornado and he said there was pink
fiberglass insulation EVERYWHERE. So many modern buildings are toxic, and
it is very unfortunate that all of that stuff is going to the landfill.

It does sound like a house that could survive a direct hit from an F-5
tornado would have to be underground and probably without windows (or maybe
shuttered windows). I read one account of an underground house with front
windows that basically exploded due to pressure changes when the tornado
hit. Would have never thought of that.

Anyway, it is probably best to just build the sturdiest house you can out
of natural materials and then have a storm shelter that is tornado proof
for when the worst happens. Most of the time (well, except for lately!) F-5
tornadoes are rare, and being in its direct path is also rare (I am
concerned that this may be changing though due to the heat island effect
that Bob discussed). But there is a lot one can do to make a house sturdier
and able to withstand a weaker tornado, not to mention hail, high winds,
etc. A house built of natural materials - straw bale, adobe, cob, earth
sheltered or log cabin - is going to fare much better than your average
suburban home built today.  When I had my house built three years ago, I
felt good about buying a brick house - it sounded so solid. I was pretty
surprised when the only brick they used was a thin layer of small bricks on
the outside.


On Tue, Jun 4, 2013 at 2:05 AM, UNSCHOOLER at LREC.ORG <unschooler at lrec.org>wrote:

> I think it is safe to say that nothing is going to withstand a direct hit
> from an F5 tornado other than possibly (probably) an underground home.
>  When they can rip ancient trees up by the roots and clear entire houses
> from their foundations, nothing above ground is completely safe.
>  Underground or earth-bermed homes make sense in Oklahoma for so many
> reasons--shelter from the extreme heat of the summer and buffered from the
> winter winds and cold temperatures in the winter.  South-facing to take
> advantage of winter solar gain, of course.   You can build a home like this
> from re-used/re-purposed materials ala the Earthship (or similar) and
> finish it out with natural finishes.  If I were building a new house in
> Oklahoma it is what I would build--without a doubt.  Having said that, cob
> is more monolithic than some other materials.  Rock houses may be stronger,
> too, but it depends upon many factors, including the type of rock, the
> mortar mix, the building method and the skill of the mason.  There are few
> true "rock houses" built anymore...most are just stick frame houses clad in
> rock.  (And they still need to be insulated, requiring some sort of
> secondary wall.)
> There is, however, another school of thought that says if you build out of
> earthen materials, then when the house is eventually destroyed (by tornado,
> by time, but future inhabitants--and ALL houses are eventually destroyed),
> there is less or no "trash" to go into the landfill.  It can all be
> recycled back into another home or returned to the earth.  That is the
> school of thought that encourages us not to be too attached to our
> things--including our homes--and acknowledges that we are ALL temporary
> inhabitants on this earth.  That we are indeed powerless.  Just throwing
> that out there for the sake of discussion.
> --Leslie
> On Jun 2, 2013, at 11:01 AM, Shelley Smith wrote:
> > Any thoughts on how a straw bale home would fare in a tornado? Is there
> anything (outside of underground) that could survive an F-5? Maybe a rock
> house? I see a few old ones in Edmond and they sure look solid...
> >
> > I'm planning to build a new house in a couple of years so I have been
> following this discussion with great interest.
> >
> > Shelley
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