Bermuda Weathers Hurricane Gonzalo Better Than Expected Due to Regional Building Strategies

Last weekend, Hurricane Gonzalo gave Bermuda a brutal pummeling, knocking out power and choking roads with debris.

But overall, the Atlantic island fared better than expected. This is due in part, apparently, to the unique roof construction of Bermuda’s iconic small cottages.

Regional Building Strategies

Bermuda’s famous white roofs are constructed with rectangular limestone slabs that are placed on top of houses. Layers of mortar are then laid to create an even, stepped shape.

The walls in Bermudian architecture are also typically made of stone (often painted a pastel color) to guard against hurricane-force winds, and feature small windows with shutters.

Bermuda, a popular tourist destination, is located 640 miles off the coast of North Carolina. It is frequently in the path of hurricanes, with a direct hit coming every four to five years, on average.

The roof of a larger building, a hospital, was damaged in the most recent storm. However, no catastrophic damage or death has been reported. This is in part because the eye of the storm, which is typically calmer than the surrounding 50 to 60 miles, passed directly over the island.

Premier Michael Dunkley said in a statement that although Bermuda was “a bit bruised” and would need to focus on repairs, “all in all we came out of this storm much better than we expected.”

Gonzalo had previously dished out far more destruction in the Caribbean. Roofs were torn off in Antigua, and an elderly sailor was killed in St. Maarten.

Multi-Purpose Architecture

Aside from minimizing wind damage, Bermuda’s roofs provide another specific and vital function: water collection. The island has no source of fresh water other than rain, and every house is required by law to collect, at minimum, 80% of the runoff from its stepped roof.

A special nontoxic paint, applied every two or three years, is used to make the rainwater collection process as sanitary as possible.

“One of the most important items to think about when choosing a roofing or gutter contractor is the quality of the products that are used, many times homeowners will review several bids that appear to be similar in product but due to substandard products can be much less in cost,” says Richard Lundstrom of HomeMasters. “Although this may be appealing the to the homeowner it can be devastating in the future when the system is tested and fails. In many cases costing the homeowner thousands with no options to make a insurance claim or receive recovery from a business that may or may not be in business.”

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