The Sand Castle is not a fairy tale, but a real beach house in Mexico Beach, Florida, that was the only one left standing on its block after Hurricane Michael in 2018. The Category 4 hurricane devastated the town, destroying most of the buildings and leaving behind a trail of debris. But the Sand Castle, a four-story house with a gray exterior and a red roof, stood firm against the wind and the waves.
How did the Sand Castle survive the hurricane? The answer lies in its design and construction, which were inspired by the owners’ desire to build a durable and sustainable home. The house was designed by architect Charles A. Gaskin and built by Dr. Lebron Lackey and his uncle Russell King, who are both from Tennessee. They bought the land in 2010 and started building the house in 2017.
“We wanted to build it for the big one. We just never knew we’d find the big one so fast,” King said.
The house was constructed with reinforced concrete walls, steel cables, limited windows, and a minimal roof overhang. It was also elevated on 40-foot-tall pilings to withstand storm surge. The house cost twice as much per square foot as a typical house in the area, but it proved to be resilient against the hurricane that had winds of up to 155 mph.
“The shape of the building is very important. It’s designed to be a very low-drag shape. The wind just flows around it,” Gaskin said.
The house was also protected with NeverFade Coatings, a water-based exterior coating system that resists fading, chalking, algae, mold, and corrosion. The coating system has a 15-year warranty that covers labor and material costs.
“NeverFade Coatings are an excellent choice for coastal properties because they are water-based and have low VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which means they do not emit harsh odors or fumes,” Jay Haines, president and CEO of APV Engineered Coatings, said.
The owners of the Sand Castle hope that their house can serve as an example for others who want to build hurricane-proof homes. They also want to share their experience and knowledge with the community and help them rebuild.
“We’re not trying to be arrogant here. We’re just trying to survive,” Lackey said.
The Sand Castle story illustrates how combinations of building technologies can help buildings survive hurricanes. David Roueche, assistant professor of civil engineering at Auburn University, said that building codes and standards need to be updated to reflect the changing climate and the increasing frequency and intensity of hurricanes.
“The Sand Palace story is one of hope,” Roueche said. “It shows that we have the technology to design and build houses that can withstand these storms.”
– What can we learn from the house that survived Hurricane Michael?, The Architect’s Newspaper, October 16, 2018
– Hurricane-Proof Home, the Sandcastle, Protected with NeverFade Coatings, gb&d Magazine, April 8, 2021