Home U.S. News What Might a Disaster-Proof House in California Look Like?

What Might a Disaster-Proof House in California Look Like?

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What Might a Disaster-Proof House in California Look Like?

Record-breaking snowfall. Dangerously high temperatures. Devastating floods.

And that’s just 2023 in California.

When extreme weather hits, it often does serious damage to the houses and apartments where we live, prolonging its impact. Weather-related disasters in 2022 forced 1.2 million people in the U.S. from their homes for at least a month, and roughly half of them have yet to return, according to census data.

Could there be another way?

My colleague Christopher Flavelle recently wrote about a growing movement to build disaster-proof homes. Resilient home designs are gaining new attention as weather grows more extreme in an era of climate change, he explains.

These designs include geodesic domes, which are good at withstanding high winds, insulating against extreme temperatures and limiting entry points for wildfire embers. Other ways of making houses more resilient include framing them with concrete or steel rather than wood, and securing roofs so they won’t fly off during hurricanes.

These technologies already exist, but they’ve been slow to make their way into mainstream home building because of the cost, Christopher explains. But in places with high or even moderate disaster risk, the future savings on repairs or rebuilding are likely to be greater than the extra money spent to build in resilience features, Christopher told me.

“It’s possible to achieve a really significant degree of protection against disasters,” he said. “The toll doesn’t need to be nearly as high as it is.”

Most home buyers aren’t aware of how much these features may save them in the long run, or they are more worried about the initial price than they are about the cost of eventual repairs. So builders have shied away from adding features that buyers may not be willing to pay extra for.

But that picture could be shifting.

With insurers raising their rates or refusing to offer new coverage in California, homeowners may come to view resilient homes as a way to make their insurance more affordable, which could increase demand for the structures — and give homebuilders a way to market them, Christopher said. It’s also possible that building codes will get tougher over time and start to require at least some of these resilience technologies.

Jon duSaint, a retired software engineer, recently bought property near Bishop, in the arid Owens Valley near California’s border with Nevada. He’s planning to build a dome to live in.

The structure will be roughly 30 feet in diameter and clad with fire-resistant aluminum shingles that reflect heat. The house will be easier to insulate than a typical house because a dome needs less exterior surface area than a rectangular building to enclose the same amount of floor space. And it can withstand high winds and heavy snowpack.

“The dome shell itself is basically impervious,” duSaint told The New York Times.


Today’s tip comes from Lien Dinh, who recommends Pinecrest Lake in the Stanislaus National Forest, about a three-hour drive east of Sacramento:

“Pinecrest Lake is a hidden gem. Spending the day at the lake in the summer has easily become one of my favorite things to do with our young boys. You can camp, hike, fish and swim at the lake, or explore some of the swimming holes nearby. In the winter, skiing at Dodge Ridge is more affordable and convenient than driving to Lake Tahoe from the Bay Area. We love it so much we bought a cabin nearby.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.


What do you love about summer in California? Barbecues, pool days, road trips? How do you celebrate the season?

Email us at CAtoday@nytimes.com with your suggestions.


This article from the Style section of The Times speaks for itself:

For years, Kelley Louise Carter entertained a fantasy about how she was going to meet the love of her life. “We would be in Whole Foods, and he would be wearing a Michigan State University alumni sweatshirt,” she said. “We would both be grabbing the almond milk at the same time, then we’d look up, lock eyes and that would be it. We’d exchange numbers and fall in love.”

Becoming the alternative milk shopper of her dreams wasn’t something Moreno Quintell McCalpin could have easily pulled off when they met in 2021, given that he lived in Atlanta and she in Los Angeles. But becoming the man who helped her rethink what love at first sight might look like was, for him, easy.

Read more about Carter and McCalpin’s love story and their vintage Hollywood wedding last month.


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