Students build solar house capable of surviving an F-5 tornado

Can your house protect you from harsh weather conditions? A residential structure built by students from Crowder College and Drury University [not pictured] was designed to withstand the strength of an EF-5 tornado.

According to this news item, the home has a triple layered wall that the researchers tested successfully against potential tornado debris slamming into it at more than 200 miles per hour. The wall is made of an outer layer of steel and aluminum, a second layer of strong fiber cement cladding, and an inner layer of Lexan plastic at a thickness of 0.25 inches. This fortified protection is placed on top of standard wood-frame walls. “There’s nothing sacrificial about this house. It’s designed to stay together and is a big design idea with this home,” said Traci Sooter, who works at Drury University as an architecture professor.

The strong framework of the model house may impress many people, but what sets this structure apart is that it’s portable and completely solar-powered. “This is what we did to make our home stand out from the others — make it able to survive an F-5 tornado and show what is possible using solar,” said Drury graduate Evan Melgren. He and fellow students coordinated with architecture professors to create the modular home equipped with 42 solar panels on the roof. Upon deployment and installation of the structure, the house can welcome up to 10 people and can be expanded by rearranging the modules.

What makes the home’s solar system great is that it can produce more energy than what the house needs. As a result, the home owner can sell the excess power to a nearby utility. In cases of weather –related disasters that could cripple the electricity in the area, the house can supply power to neighbors.

The one-of-a-kind house was constructed as part of California’s biennial Solar Decathlon competition, where it will be pitted against solar-powered homes created by other schools.

[Photo courtesy of Bill Alldredge on Flickr]