Storm Resistant Homebuilding Technology Arrives On MS Coast

An innovative technology in hurricane resistant homebuilding could soon take the Mississippi Gulf Coast by storm.

J.C. and Donna Keith say a family friend told them about Florida-based Alternative Construction Technologies. Now the Long Beach couple is the first in our area to frame their new house using materials the company says are stronger than conventional methods.

J.C. Keith admits he doesn't know a lot about construction. Neither do most of the volunteers helping him frame his Long Beach home. Keith says that's okay, because he's building with polyurethane foam and galvanized steel.

"With these panels here, they're not that difficult to put together," said Keith. "They're not that heavy.  Although they appear very long, they're not that heavy. With just a little bit of practice you can put them together."

Keith says he decided to pass on a wood frame house for several reasons. He doesn't have to worry about termites and Alternative Construction Technologies promised a product much stronger than wood, a claim they demonstrated with a 35 mile per hour projectile.

Although the wood and the panels faired very differently in the test, the company says on a 1300 square foot house, the price of would be about the same.

"You can generally get an average size structure complete in about a week to a week and a half. That's walls and roof. The finish work obviously is separate," said CEO Tony Francel. "In terms of energy efficiency, you'll save between 30 and 50 percent, sometimes more, on your monthly energy bills. And getting your home nice and strong, as the projectile tests demonstrated, is an added feature."

J.C. Keith looks forward to moving his family into a better and safer home - especially his son Eli who was born after Katrina.

"He's just getting ready to walk and we want him to walk in our house for the first time," said Keith.

According to Alternative Construction Technologies, panels are normally built to a strength required by local codes. However, the company officials say in the international market they've sold panels that withstand 140 mile per hour winds.   They also sell safe rooms that can withstand 200 mile per hour winds.