Title:
MOVABLE SLOPED PANELS TO MODIFY BUILDING PROFILES AND REDUCE WIND RESISTANCE, TO PROTECT BUILDINGS DURING HIGH WINDS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Sloping panel assemblies are disclosed, for protecting coastal homes and other buildings against hurricanes or very high winds. Long waterproof panels with widths up to 12 feet, made with fibers from recycled carpets, can be rapidly affixed to anchoring devices that have been shallowly buried around the periphery of a building. After anchoring, the panels will lean against the eave of a building, creating an enclosed pyramid-like structure capped by the roof of the building. Wedge-shaped nose and tail sections can similarly be affixed to the ends of A-frame buildings. Hinged cover panels, over drainage trenches, can be raised and locked at a sloped angle, to provide windbreaks and floodwater drainage on the windward sides of coastal buildings.



Inventors:
Kelly, Patrick D. (St. Louis, MO, US)
Peoples, Robert (Atlanta, GA, US)
Application Number:
11/613188
Publication Date:
06/19/2008
Filing Date:
12/19/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04B2/74
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SPAHN, GAY
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PATRICK D. KELLY (ST. LOUIS, MO, US)
Claims:
1. A building protection assembly for minimizing wind damage to a building, comprising: a. at least one panel or panel assembly, having (i) a length that can protect a substantial portion of at least one side of the building to be protected, and (ii) a width that is sufficient to enable said panel to be affixed to at least one upper edge of said building in a manner that establishes a sloped flat surface that is sufficiently angled from a vertical orientation to deflect high winds; b. means for rapidly and reversibly yet securely affixing a first upper edge of said panel or panel assembly to at least one upper edge of said building; and, c. means for rapidly and reversibly yet securely affixing at least one second lower edge of said panel or panel assembly to at least one anchoring component that is suited for anchoring in a ground location proximal to said building.

2. The building protection assembly of claim 1, wherein said panel or panel assembly has a length that is sufficient to protect at least one entire side of a house.

3. The building protection assembly of claim 1, wherein said panel or panel assembly has a width that is sufficient to establish a sloping angle that is at least about 30 degrees from vertical, when said panel is affixed to both: (i) said upper edge of said building, and (ii) at least one anchoring component that has been anchored in a ground location proximal to said building.

4. The building protection assembly of claim 1, comprising a sufficient number of panels or panel assemblies, and means for affixing upper edges of said panels or panel assemblies to upper edges of said building, to enable said panels or panel assemblies to be secured in a sheltering manner around at least 30% of the perimeter of a building, when measured as linear distance around said perimeter of the building.

5. The building protection assembly of claim 1, wherein said panel or panel assembly comprises at least one sheet of material made from recycled synthetic fibers that are hydrophobic and that are not digestible by insects.

6. The building protection assembly of claim 1, wherein at least one panel or panel assembly is reinforced by a supporting truss.

7. A building protection assembly, comprising a building that is designed to withstand high winds by means that include constructing said building with strong reinforcing beams which are (i) securely anchored into the ground, and (ii) installed along at least one upper edge of said building, wherein said reinforcing beams installed along at least one upper edge of said building are provided with a plurality of attachment points designed to enable a sloping wind-deflecting panel to be rapidly and reversibly yet securely affixed to said reinforcing beams along at least one upper edge of said building.

7. A building protection assembly for minimizing wind damage to a building, comprising: a. at least one panel or panel assembly, designed to be emplaced beneath a ground surface; b. a trough device, designed to support said panel or panel assembly when emplaced beneath a ground surface, and designed to hold at least one lifting means that is designed and suited for raising said panel into a sloped orientation that will deflect high winds, when a storm is approaching.



8. The building protection assembly of claim 7, wherein said panel or panel assembly is affixed to said trough device by means that comprise at least one hinge component.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention is in the field of building design, and relates to buildings that may be subject to very high winds, such as along a coastline that may be hit by hurricanes or typhoons.

The devastation suffered by the U.S. Gulf Coast, and by the Yukatan peninsula, due to the four hurricanes that hit Florida in 2004, and Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005, have made it clear that better methods and designs are needed for homes and other buildings that may need to withstand hurricane-force winds, including winds from Category 5 (“monster”) hurricanes.

Various wind-resistant designs have been proposed over the past few decades, including (for example) homes with rounded roofs and low profiles, with shapes comparable to mushroom caps resting on the ground. However, only a very few such buildings have been built, and such structures and designs cannot be retrofitted (without great difficulty and expense) onto existing buildings with conventional rectangular walls and foundations.

Three factors must be noted, to understand why conventional buildings are highly susceptible to damage from winds that exceed 100 miles per hour (about 160 kilometers per hour). The first factor arises from the fact that rectangular frames are inherently unstable, since they tend to collapse when subjected to “shearing forces”. This principle is illustrated by FIG. 1, showing a simple rectangular frame, made of boards that are nailed or screwed together at their ends. When a low or moderate wind blows against the structure, from left to right in the drawing, the frame can initially resist. However, at some point, as the wind grows stronger, deformation of the frame will begin, driven by a combination of pressure against the upwind (windward) side of the building, and a relative vacuum on the downwind (leeward) side of the building. As soon as deformation begins to occur, the screws or nails that hold the ends of the boards together (at the corners of the rectangle) will begin acting as pivots or axles. If the boards begin to rotate and pivot about the shafts of screws or nails at the corners of the frame, those screws and nails and not able to provide substantial resistance. Accordingly, rectangular frame designs are inherently at risk of deformation and collapse.

By contrast, a triangular frame such as shown in FIG. 2 is a “self-reinforcing” structure. If high shear stresses are imposed on the triangle, such as by a high wind passing from left to right, the triangle can resist collapse much more strongly than a rectangular frame. Rather than allowing two connected boards to simply rotate around a pivot point, which is provided by a screw or nail at a corner, the entire structure and design of the triangle contributes to its strength.

The second major factor can be referred to as an umbrella or parachute effect. This occurs if a breach (i.e., any type of opening) begins to form in the windward (wind-facing) wall of a building. That type of initial breach can occur for any of various reasons; for example, a sheet of plywood nailed over a window might be blown loose, the glass can break, a latch on a door can fail, etc. Regardless of how the breach begins, if a strong wind manages to enter even a single room inside a house, it will begin exerting pressures on the interior walls and ceilings in the building. Even though the increased air pressure might be only small to moderate, by normal standards, those pressures will be exerted across large areas. For example, an air pressure increase of only half a pound per square inch (psi) in a room of a breached building, due to a very high wind pushing air into the room from one direction, converts into 72 pounds of force, on every square foot of the wall must resist the wind. Assuming a room is 8 feet tall and 10 feet square, and assuming that the increased pressure is being exerted solely on the north interior wall of a room by a high wind coming from the south during a hurricane, the northern wall (with an area of 80 square feet) will have nearly 6,000 pounds (nearly 3 tons) of lateral pressure imposed on it, from an increase in air pressure of only 0.5 psi, pressing against the wall. This destructive force, imposed against the north wall, will be even higher due to the creation of a relative vacuum on the leeward side of that same wall. Similarly, if a ceiling has an area of 100 square feet, that converts into 7,200 pounds (nearly 4 tons) of force, if 0.5 psi of increased air pressure pushes against it (in fact, a pressure gradient will be created across the ceiling, with highest pressures along the northern edge, if the wind is coming from the south).

The point that needs to be understood is that even small increases in air pressure, when imposed upon the walls and ceiling inside a building that has been breached, can create multiple tons of destructive force, which will begin trying to pry and pull apart those walls and ceilings. If a building is breached and high winds begin blowing into it, the wind will effectively convert the walls and ceilings of the building into wind-catching structures that are comparable to umbrellas or parachutes. The tons of force that will be created, if that happens, can rip apart the walls and ceilings if a building suffers even a small initial breach.

The third major factor arises from the fact that the force and power exerted by high winds (often called “kinetic energy”, by physicists) is not merely proportional to the velocity of the wind; instead, it is proportional to the wind speed, squared. For example, a wind speed of 70 miles per hour (mph), when squared, converts into a number of 4900. A wind speed of 100 mph, when squared, converts into 10,000, which is more than twice as high. Therefore, a 100 mph wind creates destructive forces that are more than twice as severe as a 70 mph wind. Similarly, a 140 mph wind creates twice as much destructive force of a 100 mph wind. Therefore, when a major hurricane hits a coastal region, each 10 mph increase in wind speed leads to an exponential increase (rather than merely a proportional increase) in the amount of damage the hurricane will inflict on the area it hits.

In view of numerous scientific warnings that greenhouse gases and global warming have brought us to a point where major and even monster hurricanes will become more frequent, efforts must be made to design new types of buildings that can withstand very high winds, including winds of at least 150 miles per hour (preferably, such buildings should be able to withstand gusts of 200 miles per hour, or even more, to provide an additional margin of safety).

Furthermore, several recent storms in northern areas (including a blizzard that hit the coasts of Oregon and Washington with 100 mph winds, in early December 2006) have made it clear that coastal damage from high winds is not limited to southern coastlines. Instead, global climate change threatens to create unusually severe storms and windspeeds at all latitudes.

Accordingly, one object of this invention is to disclose new designs and protective structures for homes and other buildings in coastal areas and similar regions, which can be subjected to extremely high winds, such as from major or “monster” hurricanes or blizzards.

Another object of this invention is to disclose a system of strong, reinforced, waterproof protective panels that can be affixed to a building within a few hours, in a manner that will shelter and protect the building if a hurricane or other major storm is approaching.

Another object of this invention is to disclose how large and strong “sheetwood substitutes” and other composite materials made primarily from synthetic waterproof fibers (such as nylon fibers obtained from recycled carpets) can be used to provide improved building structures that can resist and withstand even very high winds.

Another object of this invention is to disclose a type of trench and barrier system that can be installed on the windward and/or coastal side of a building, in ways that can help protect the building against high winds and flooding during a major storm.

These and other objects of the invention will become more apparent through the following summary, drawings, and description.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Designs and materials are disclosed for rendering homes and other buildings much better able to withstand very high winds, including hurricane-force winds. One set of materials comprises large reinforced and waterproof panels, which can be affixed to a building in roughly an hour or less, if a hurricane or other major storm is approaching. These panels will be affixed to a building by using a combination of: (i) anchoring hinges that have been previously affixed to the ground, at locations that are spaced several meters away from the edge of a building, and (ii) attachment devices that have been affixed to the awning edges or other suitable surfaces, along the upper edge of a building.

As one example, a square building with a sloped roof can have large panels affixed to each of its sides, and to anchoring devices that buried in the yard or parking lot surrounding the building, thereby creating a pyramid-type protective enclosure that can withstand very high winds.

As another example, an A-frame home or other building can be provided with wedge-shaped “nose” and “tail” segments, at both ends of the building. If desired, the entire building and the anchoring points for the nose and tail “wedges” can be built on top of a large rotatable platform, reinforced by steel or other beams. If desired, the utility supply lines can be disconnected, and the entire platform can be either raised or lowered, by hydraulic jacks with wheels on the bottom ends, until a gearing mechanism is engaged. This would allow the A-frame structure to be rotated, during a hurricane, so that the “nose” points into the wind at all times as a hurricane passes over, to minimize wind resistance. Alternately or additionally, the top (“crest”) portion of an A-frame building can be built in modular sections, which can be affixed to the base structure in a detachable manner. This would allow the upper segments to be unbolted and removed by a crane, when a hurricane is approaching, and replaced by one or more horizontal panels, to give the building a lower profile and less wind resistance while the storm passes.

The work required to prepare for a hurricane can be carried out by a team of able-bodied workers, with the aid of portable cranes that can be moved quickly from house to house. In a location such as a housing subdivision on or near a coast, the panels and their supporting frames can be stored in a central location, or used to provide other types of structures (such as decks, carports, etc.) when not needed for storm protection. A team of several workers can rapidly affix the panels to a building, requiring roughly an hour or so for each home. Since modern hurricane tracking provides at least a day's notice (and usually more) before landfall, this would allow dozens, hundreds, or thousands of small teams of homeowners, reserve crews, high school athletes, military personnel, etc. to quickly install such panels on hundreds or thousands of buildings in the path of an approaching hurricane, provided that the anchoring structures had already been installed when time was not crucial.

In addition, a trench and barrier system is disclosed which can use hydraulics or jacks to raise long panels that are mounted on hinges, in ways that will create a sloping barrier on the windward side of a home when a hurricane or other major storm approaches. The trench, located behind and beneath the raised panels, can be provided with a drainage and pumping system to pump out any water that collects in the trench, thereby reducing the risk of flooding in the protected building.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 (which is prior art) depicts the vulnerability of a rectangular frame to collapse, when subjected to lateral (or shearing) forces created by high wind.

FIG. 2 (which is prior art) depicts the inherent stability of a triangular structure.

FIG. 3 depicts a square building, surrounded by four large panels that are lying on the ground after being affixed to hinge structures. The vertical ends of the hinged structures have been inserted into anchoring sleeves that were anchored deep in the ground, then buried in a shallow and accessible manner, to keep them out of the way until needed.

FIG. 4 depicts the same square building and panels, after the panels have been rotated upward and affixed to the awnings of the home, to create an enclosed and “hunkered down” pyramid-type structure that is streamlined and protected against even very high winds.

FIG. 5, which comprises FIGS. 5A and 5B, shows top (plan) views of the roof of an L-shaped home, indicating a panel layout that can provide a sheltering structure for a non-square building during a hurricane.

FIG. 6 depicts an anchoring hinge, with vertical legs that can be affixed to anchoring receptacles that have been securely anchored in the ground, and with a rotatable cylinder mounted on the horizontal bar of the hinge.

FIG. 7 (which is prior art) depicts a conventional A-frame home.

FIG. 8 depicts an A-frame home with two large triangular panels attached to each end, to provide a “nose wedge” and a “tail wedge”, which provide a streamlined profile that can withstand high winds.

FIG. 9 depicts an A-frame building having a crest portion that was affixed to the base of the home, in modular segments. The crest segments have been detached and replaced by a flat panel, to lower the height and the wind resistance of the home, as a hurricane approaches. This “hunkered down” low-profile structure also depicts three triangular panels which create a streamlined “nose wedge” at one end of the building.

FIG. 10 depicts a trench and barrier system, buried shallowly in the ground on the windward side of a building, in which hydraulic cylinders and a bladder are used to raise and support a movable panel that will create a sloped barrier, which will cause high winds to be diverted upward, so they will not impact directly against a building wall. The trench also provides drainage means, to pump out floodwaters.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

As summarized above, designs and materials are disclosed that can render buildings much better able to withstand hurricanes and other very high winds and severe storms. For convenience, the discussion below will focus upon and refer to homes, surrounded by yards and grass. These teachings can be adapted to other types of buildings that may be surrounded by asphalt or concrete parking lots, sand, or other surfaces, using methods known to those skilled in the art. For example, anchoring sleeves that are installed beneath asphalt or concrete, rather than beneath a layer of grass, can be covered by removable plates or caps, comparable to manhole covers, or to the caps used to cover and protect various types of water valves, gas shutoff valves, and other utilities.

The panels discussed herein should be strong and waterproof. A preferred class of materials for making such panels comprises composite materials made of recycled synthetic fibers, such as nylon fibers from shredded recycled carpets. Various methods for manufacturing such materials are known, including methods described in PCT application WO 01/76869 (Bacon et al), U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,993,586 and 6,024,818 (both by Dunson et al), and U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,626,939 and 5,912,062 (both by Kotliar et al). These and other similar types of materials (which can be referred to by various terms, such as composite materials, sheetwood substitutes, etc.) can be manufactured in any desired thickness, and with a range of strengths. Premium-grade materials, made with polyurethane or other chemical adhesives by methods such as described in PCT application 01/76869, can be used with a reinforcing truss, as described below, without requiring any additional supporting layers.

Thin and/or low-cost materials may require an underlying supporting layer (such as plywood, oriented strand board etc.) in addition to a reinforcing truss. It is also possible to place a vinyl or similar type of waterproof sheathing or veneer on top of a sheet of plywood, OSB, or similar material. However, any material that contains wood or any other material that is hydrophilic, that is natural rather than synthetic, or that is otherwise subject to attack by termites or other insects, will raise serious questions concerning durability and insect resistance, if kept in a storage facility for years between uses. Along those lines, it should be noted that some, but not all, of the types of sheetwood substitutes listed above can be made entirely of synthetic materials that are completely indigestible to insects.

It also should be recognized that, although sloped protective structures as described herein might be constructed entirely out of wood (such as sheets of plywood that are nailed or screwed to frames made of lumber), that type of construction would suffer from several major drawbacks, including:

1. a single such structure would require a large amount of plywood, which rapidly becomes scarce or totally unavailable when a hurricane is approaching;

2. it would require a skilled team at least a full day, and more likely two or three days, to properly build and anchor each such structure, which would severely limit and reduce the number of buildings that could be protected;

3. if even a single sheet of plywood is torn loose from such a structure by hurricane-force winds, winds can begin entering the structure, and can begin creating a destructive umbrella or parachute effect, as described in the Background; and,

(4) after a hurricane or other major storm has passed, the structure would be effectively useless, and it would need to be dismantled, creating a solid waste disposal problem, and leaving nothing of value that can help protect against future storms.

By contrast, the systems disclosed herein are designed to enable rapid installation of the panels, such as within an hour or two, when it becomes clear that a hurricane is threatening, by using pre-installed anchoring systems that were set in the ground months or years earlier. The panels preferably should be obtained well before any need arises; since they will not soak up water and will not be attacked by insects even if stored for years or even decades, they can provide long-lasting structures that can be used numerous times over a span of decades. Also, by using panels that are longer and wider than a standard sheet of plywood, and by using very strong means of attachment (such as steel bolts with oversized washers, which are much stronger than nails or screws with thin shafts and small heads), the risk of losing any sheets, during very high winds, is greatly reduced.

Panels made from synthetic fibers (such as recycled carpets) can be manufactured in continuous non-seamed widths of 8 or 12 feet, or even greater if desired. For example, the materials described in Bacon et al and Dunson et al, cited above, are made using needle-punched mats (with nylon fibers from recycled carpets) as starting materials. Those types of needle-punched mats initially were developed for use as carpet underlayers, and can be manufactured with exact 12 foot widths, to match conventional carpet rolls. Such mats can be converted into stiffened panels that are also 12 feet wide, so long as a press with sufficient width is used. If desired, even wider panels could be manufactured without seams; however, because of handling and transportation requirements (including the need for a crew of several people to be able to install the panels on a building, under conditions that may well be windy), it likely would be preferable to attach two sheets of material (each sheet being 8 or 10 feet wide) to a supporting frame, rather than manufacturing a super-wide panel and then trying to attach it to a supporting frame on a windy day.

The composite materials that can be made on such presses can have any desired length, since their length is determined by the spacing of a cross-cut sawing operation that cuts a continuous ribbon of material (which is emerging from a press) into segments that can be stacked and handled. Because of transport and handling requirements, practical lengths generally are limited by both: (i) the length of a flatbed trailer that can be used to transport them, such as the type of trailer used by 18-wheeler tractor-trailers (often called big rigs, semi-trucks, lorries, etc.); and, (ii) the need for a relatively small crew, with a small crane, to be able to handle and install them, even under conditions that may be fairly windy and gusty.

Any such panel (regardless of size) preferably should be affixed to a reinforcing truss, which can also be called a frame, brace, support, or similar terms. For example, panel 118 shown in FIG. 3 depicts a reinforcing truss 120, made of linear members 122. Members 122 can be called splines, struts, or similar terms, and they can be made of various materials (such as, for example, I-beams, U-channels, or enclosed pipes or rails having square, rectangular, round, or triangular cross-sections, etc.). The frame members can be made of steel, graphite, or other suitably strong and hard materials, including laminated beams that can be created by bonding together strips of woodlike composite materials.

Because of the inherent stability of triangular sections, most trusses contain linear elements that are arranged in a pattern of triangles. Any such truss should be positioned on the protected interior side of a panel, to minimize protrusions or recesses that could catch the wind and increase the forces and stresses that would be imposed on a truss or panel.

Panels can be affixed to trusses or frames either in a factory setting, or at any assembly site that can be reached by truck (such as on a street or beach, at a coastal location). Any non-factory assembly site can be temporarily provided with large work surfaces and power tools, to speed up attachment of the panels to the trusses or frames.

Panels for Square, Rectangular, and Similar Buildings

FIG. 3 illustrates a square or rectangular building 100 with a conventional roof 102, surrounded by four large flat panels 112-118. Each panel has a shape called a trapezoid, which implies two parallel sides (which will be the upper and lower edges of the panel, when in use) and two non-parallel sides (which will form the sloping corners of a pyramid-type assembled structure, as illustrated in FIG. 4). A truss 120 (as described above) is shown on the interior side of panel 118; similar trusses preferably should be used on all panels.

The panels illustrated in FIG. 3 have been affixed, along their lower horizontal edges, to anchoring devices 140, shown in more detail in FIG. 5. Each anchoring device (or frame) 140 has a rotatable cylinder 160, affixed to the horizontal bar 142 of anchoring device 140. A truss and/or panel can be initially affixed to the cylinder 160 while the truss and panel are resting flat on the ground. Initial attachment can be made with the aid of straps, pulleys, ratcheting “come-along” devices, or similar means, and it can be tightened later. After a panel has been affixed to an anchored cylinder 160 along its lower edge, it can be raised and rotated, until its upper edge leans against the building as shown in FIG. 4.

Alternately, since there preferably should be little or no gap between the ground and the bottom edge of a panel (to prevent wind from entering such a gap and creating an umbrella or parachute effect, as mentioned above), a panel can be installed by the following steps: (1) leaning and resting its upper edge on top of a rotating horizontal cylinder 160 supported by an anchoring device 140; (2) having one or two people (or a crane-mounted device) grip the upper edge of the panel, and begin walking the upper edge toward its attachment point, on an eave, awning, or other upper edge of a building; (3) securing the upper edge of the panel to its proper location on the building; and, (4) securing the lower edge of the panel to the rotating cylinder 160 on anchoring device 140. This installation method can allow a panel's lower edge to extend several feet beyond and below the anchoring device 140, to a point that will minimize or eliminate any gap between the panel edge and the ground.

In most buildings, the line of contact with the panel will be along the edge of an eave (which also can be called an awning, overhang, or similar terms. Accordingly, steps should be taken to provide strong and secure attachment points, along the edges of the eaves or other locations on a building. This can be done by any of various means, which can be either designed into a house frame, or retrofitted onto an existing house. For example, strong frame members can be embedded inside the eaves that surround the perimeter of a building. Conventional guttering (made of sheet aluminum or other lightweight material) can be mounted on a vinyl-covered board, plank, or panel, which can be reversibly attached to the strong frame members embedded inside the eave structures. This would allow the guttering to be temporarily removed, when a major storm is approaching, to allow strong and secure attachment of the protective panels to the underlying structural members.

The strong frame members hidden inside the eaves can be provided by thick and heavy steel I-beams, if desired. For modern homes that will be built on or near a southern beach or coast in the post-Katrina era, it would be a straightforward matter to provide a “skeletal” frame made of thick and heavy steel I-beams, embedded in concrete footings, for a one-story home. The steel beams in these skeletal frames would provide numerous attachment points for conventional framing components, which could be made of wood or wood-like composite materials. In the past, frame construction using heavy and strong steel beams was not practical or economical, for most types of homes near southern coasts, since the other materials used to build the home (most of which are made of wood, glass, or similar materials) could not be protected in ways that would be worth the additional expense of a frame made of heavy steel I-beams. However, with the disclosure of removable protective panels as described herein, steel frames will merit careful reappraisal for any homes being built on or near southern coastlines, in view of the terrible destruction caused by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, all in 2005.

If a panel that is 12 feet wide is affixed to an eave that is 8 feet high, the base of the panel will be about 9 feet away (horizontally) from the edge of the awning. That horizontal distance is calculated from the Pythagorean equation, h2+v2=w2, where h is the horizontal distance covered by the panel, v is the vertical height of the awning edge, and w is the width of the panel (which will be the hypotenuse of a triangle that is formed when a sloping panel is leaned against a building). If desired, the heights of the eaves can be lowered to less than 7 feet, to give protective panels shallower slopes (to create better streamlining), by extending an eave (with its sloped upper surface) a greater distance beyond the exterior walls of a building. This type of building design will not reduce the heights of the rooms or ceilings inside the building.

In addition, when a panel is affixed to a building to protect it against a hurricane or other storm, additional reinforcing devices can be provided, such as supporting struts, anchored cables, etc. For example, the upper end of a reinforcing strut can be affixed to a truss member on the bottom side of a panel, while the lower end of the strut can be affixed to an anchoring device positioned at or near the base of the building. If two or more reinforcing struts are used for a panel, they should be spaced properly along the length of the panel. Similarly, a series of cables can be used, with their upper ends attached to spaced locations along the upper edge of a panel truss, and with their lower ends anchored to the ground at a series of points located halfway between the building wall, and the anchoring device used to support the lower edge of a panel.

If desired, rotatable flaps mounted along the edges of the panels can be used, to help ensure streamlining and minimal wind resistance. A waterproof sealant (which can be pumped out in sizable quantities, by using a powered pump device to create oversized strips or “beads”, and which also can be used to cover and seal a strip of “batting” material if a substantial gap must be closed and covered) can be used to help secure various seals. Many such sealants can be removed cleanly, after a storm has passed, when the panels are being removed and returned to storage.

Alternately or additionally, flexible elongated bladders made of strong and tough material (such as a waterproof polymer sheet reinforced by a nylon fiber web) can be pushed (while deflated) into any sizable gaps. After the mechanical pieces have been installed and positioned, the bladders can be inflated with air or water, until they are securely wedged into any gaps that need to be closed.

If a building has a more complex structure, with a floor plan and a roof shape comprising a plurality of square and rectangular segments, it is nevertheless possible and practical to provide pre-cut and pre-fit accommodating panels that will provide a fully-enclosed and sloped external surface, which can provide a very high level of protection against hurricane-force winds. This type of structure can be referred to as a complex or component pyramid, quasi-pyramid, multi-pyramid, or similar terms.

The patterns that will be most useful, for any such building, can be determined within a matter of minutes, if the designer begins by drawing outward-extending lines, presumably but not necessarily at 45 degree angles, from each external and internal corner of the roof plan, and then drawing a perimeter around the resulting geometric shape, with a fixed distance from the edges of the eaves, using squared rather than rounded corners. Alternately, if desired, panels that provide rounded or beveled corners, at any location around a building, can be provided and used. An example of that type of structure is shown in FIG. 5. FIG. 5A shows a top (plan) view of the roof 190 of an L-shaped building. FIG. 5B shows the same roof 190, surrounded by sloping protective panels 191-197.

While it clearly would be preferable to surround and completely enclose a building, to provide it with maximal protection if a hurricane or other major storm is approaching, it should also be noted that partical protection can also be quite helpful, and would enable more buildings to be protected, as rapidly as possible, when a hurricane is approaching. For example, if the front door of a beach house faces the ocean, a level of protection that can be estimated at roughly 40% to about 60% likely can be provided, merely by placing wind-deflecting panels on the single side of the house which faces the ocean. Such protection can be in the shape of a wedge that points out toward the ocean, as shown in FIG. 8; alternately, it can be a flat panel with its edges sealed off and enclosed by smaller panel on the sides.

Therefore, when this type of building protection is described in terms suited for a patent claims, it can be described as a building protection assembly for minimizing wind damage to a building, comprising:

a. at least one panel or panel assembly, having (i) a length that can protect a substantial portion of at least one side of the building to be protected, and (ii) a width that is sufficient to enable said panel to be affixed to at least one upper edge of said building in a manner that establishes a sloped flat surface that is sufficiently angled from a vertical orientation to deflect high winds;

b. means for rapidly and reversibly yet securely affixing a first upper edge of said panel or panel assembly to at least one upper edge of said building; and,

c. means for rapidly and reversibly yet securely affixing at least one second lower edge of said panel or panel assembly to at least one anchoring component that is suited for anchoring in a ground location proximal to said building.

Accordingly, the phrase, “a sloped flat surface that is sufficiently angled from a vertical orientation to deflect high winds” can be deemed to be satisfied, at a bare minimum, by a sloping angle that is at least about 30 degrees from vertical, but it should be recognized that a sloping angle of at least about 40 degrees or more (from vertical) is preferable; in general, the more flat and horizontal the surface, the greater will be its ability to successfully deflect very high winds.

Similarly, the mode of building design and construction disclosed herein also merits protection, when carried out in a manner that is intentionally designed to incorporate and use these types of wind-deflecting sloping panels. Accordingly, also claimed below is a building protection assembly, comprising a building that is designed to withstand high winds by means that include constructing said building with strong reinforcing beams which are (i) securely anchored into the ground, and (ii) installed along at least one upper edge of said building, wherein said reinforcing beams installed along at least one upper edge of said building are provided with a plurality of attachment points designed to enable a sloping wind-deflecting panel to be rapidly and reversibly yet securely affixed to said reinforcing beams along at least one upper edge of said building.

Anchoring Devices

FIG. 6 depicts the components of a suitable type of anchoring device 140. The complete assembly comprises two or more anchoring receptacles 130, which must be securely anchored within the soil, sand, clay, or other earth material that rests beneath a building. This can be accomplished by means known to civil engineers, even if a building rests on loose sand, by providing anchoring receptacles with sufficient depth and suitable design. In some types of soil or sand, a steel cylinder with enlarged auger-type external threads 132 (as shown in FIG. 6) can be driven into the ground, using the types of powered auguring equipment used to drill large holes for emplacing telephone poles. In other types of soil, a vertical tunnel can be dug (using either power equipment or a manual post-hole digger), a steel or similar device can be emplaced and positioned in the hole, and the hole can then be filled with concrete.

Anchoring receptacle 130 has a threaded portion 134 at its top. As described below, threaded portion 134 will engage an accommodating threaded collar 150 which is mounted on a vertical leg of anchoring device 140. If desired, when anchoring receptacle 130 is buried in the ground, threaded portion 134 can be covered and protected by a threaded plastic cap or similar device, to keep the threads clean, lightly oiled, and free of rust.

Preferably, the top end 134 of any anchoring receptacle 130 should be coplanar with, or slightly below, the ground surface. If placed on a grass lawn, the tops of the anchoring receptacles can be buried an appropriate distance (such as about 6 to 10 inches) beneath the surface of the soil, to allow grass to grow normally above the receptacles, while allowing a complete set of multiple receptacles around a building to be dug up and accessed within an hour or two, if a hurricane threatens that location. If the anchoring receptacles are buried beneath a parking lot or similar surface, they can be covered by flush-mounted caps, comparable to conventional access plates that cover water or gas valves or other utilities, allowing cars to drive over them with no bumps noticed by the drivers.

Anchoring device 140 has a shape comparable to an oversized staple, with a horizontal bar 142 that extends between a first vertical leg 144 and a second vertical leg 146. Suitable lengths for horizontal bar 142 will range from about 6 to about 15 feet. If desired, a mechanism 148 which can be loosened and tightened whenever needed can allow the distance between the two vertical legs 144 and 146 to be adjusted slightly, in case the ground has shifted or settled enough to alter the distance between two adjacent anchoring receptacles, as might occur over a span of years or decades. If desired, a single anchoring frame can have three or more vertical legs, with a plurality of rotatable cylinders 160 mounted on the horizontal bar.

The vertical legs 144 and 146 are designed to be affixed to the anchoring receptacles 132 that were previously buried in the ground. In one preferred embodiment, a freely-rotating sleeve 150 can be mounted on each leg of the frame; the upper end of the sleeve 150 will have a collar plate 152 (which also can be called a cap, flange, or various other terms), which will press against a shoulder 154. Shoulder 154 can be welded to a fixed height on leg 144 or 146; alternately, the height of shoulder 154 can be adjustable, if desired, by using two threaded nuts that are tightened hard against each other on a threaded shaft.

One surface (either internal or external) of rotatable sleeve 150 will be threaded, to allow it to engage the accommodating threaded surface 134 at the top of anchoring receptacle 130. Accordingly, when a large wrench is used to screw the rotatable sleeve 150 downward (using a square, hexagonal, or other non-circular surface on collar 152), the collar plate 152 at the top of sleeve 150 will press against the upper surface of shoulder 154. This will force anchor leg 144 downward, securing it inside anchoring receptacle 130.

The horizontal bar 142 of anchoring device 140 provides an axle that supports a rotatable member 160, which can have a cylindrical, square, triangular, or other cross-sectional shape. In one preferred design, rotating member 160 can be provided with a series of embedded internally-threaded cylinders or nuts 162, which will receive the threaded ends of bolts. When a panel is being affixed to a rotating member 160, threaded bolts will be passed through grommets or similar reinforcing devices that are mounted (with accommodating spacing) along the lower edges of the panel, and the ends of the bolts will engage the threaded nuts or cylinders 162 in the rotating member 160. In an alternate preferred design, rotating member 160 can comprise (i) a cylinder that encloses horizontal bar 142, and (2) an extended tangential plate having elongated slots, which can accommodate bolts or other connectors without requiring precise alignment or spacing.

During assembly, as a hurricane is approaching, a panel can be affixed to its anchoring frame, before the ends of the frame are inserted into the anchoring receptacles. Alternately, a frame can be partially inserted into its anchoring receptacles, and screwed down until it establishes a stable but not tight connection. The panel can then be bolted to the rotating member on the frame, while access to the rotating member is still relatively open. The panel can then be lifted and rotated upward, until its upper edge rests against the edge of the awning, on the building. The sleeves on the anchor can then be screwed downward, which will lower the height of the panel, until the upper securing means have been properly aligned. For example, a row of reinforced grommets or other securing means can be mounted along the upper edge of the panel; during assembly, these will need to be properly aligned with accommodating securing means (such as internally-threaded nuts or cylinders that will receive the ends of threaded bolts) that are mounted on or near the edge of the awning. These and other mechanisms and methods (such as the “top first” method of securing panels to building eaves first, and then to attachment devices at ground level, as mentioned above) can be used to provide tolerances and allowances that can accommodate for ground that may shift or settle over an extended period of time.

In one assembly method, when the upper edge of a panel is lifted, as shown by the four curved directional arrows in FIG. 3, the panel will rotate about the axle that is created by one or more anchored hinges. In an alternate assembly method, as mentioned above, the upper edge of a panel is leaned against the horizontal bad or an anchoring device, then two people can grab, pull, and lift the upper edge of the panel, and position it along its attachment location, along an eave or awning of a building, while a third person completes that attachment.

Regardless of which method is used, each panel is sized so that its upper edge has essentially the same length as the eave or awning segment to which it will be attached. This allows an entire set of panels, when fully raised and attached around the perimeter of a building, to interact with a building roof, in a manner that forms what effectively becomes a hunkered-down pyramid-type structure, such as shown in FIG. 4.

It should be noted that this is just one preferred embodiment of an anchoring system, and other anchoring systems can be developed and used if desired. As just one example, cables or chains that can be tightened by winches, pulleys, or similar devices can be used to secure the lower end of a panel to a set of anchored eyelets or other attachment points on the ground.

Panels for Triangular (A-Frame) Buildings

FIG. 7 is a simplified depiction of a triangular-frame (often called an “A-frame”) building 200, which is prior art. These types of structures are popular for vacation homes, and for homes in areas with extensive forests and/or heavy snowfalls (since a steeply sloping roof reduces the risk of catching fire from burning embers, and the risk of damage by a heavy snowfall that otherwise might accumulate on a roof). When used as homes, A-frame buildings typically have kitchen, dining, and living rooms in the wider downstairs area, and one or more bedrooms, lofts, or storage areas in the narrower portions in the upper story.

FIG. 8 illustrates the same A-frame building 200, after it has been fitted with triangular panels 212 and 214 that create a “nose wedge” 210. A similar panel 222, and an additional panel (not shown) also that create a “tail wedge” 220. These nose and tail wedges 210 and 220 provide a form of streamlining that will enable even very high winds to pass across the home with minimal resistance, so long as the home remains “pointed into the wind”.

During a hurricane, an entire A-frame building can be kept pointing into the wind, by mechanical means. This can be accomplished by placing the entire home (including the outer attachment points 215 and 225 for both the nose and the tail wedges) on a large rotatable platform, presumably made with steel reinforcing beams. If a hurricane is approaching, the entire platform (and the building that rests on the platform) can be either raised or lowered slightly, by means such as extending or retracting a plurality of hydraulic jacks that are distributed at appropriate locations beneath the rotatable platform. For example, a first hydraulic jack that has a simple pivoting mechanism anywhere in its shaft can be positioned in the center of the platform, and a number of additional jacks (presumably at least 3, up to about 10) can be distributed at suitable locations around the platform, with wheels affixed to their lower ends.

When all of these jacks are extended or retracted simultaneously, one or more geared elements that are affixed to the rotatable platform (such as two or more “star”-type gears, with radially-extending teeth) can engage an accommodating gear mechanism that will remain stationary and affixed to the ground. For example, when a hurricane is approaching, an entire ring of teeth can be affixed to a very heavy and sturdy streamlined frame, which can be secured to anchoring receptacles, such as described above. In addition, any pipes, wires, conduits, or other connections that normally provide water, gas, or electricity to the building will be disconnected, so that the building can be rotated as needed, during the hurricane.

A drive and control mechanism that can rotate the star gears will be provided, which can be operated from the protected area inside the building. For example, a hand-powered winch (with a long handle, to provide sufficient torque), which will not require any electrical or other external power, can be used instead of (or to supplement) any battery-driven power. Any such star gear that will engage the ring of teeth can travel directly behind a movable clearing mechanism, comparable to a “cow-catcher” on an old-style locomotive, to ensure that windblown debris cannot entangle and block the star gears as they travel around the ring.

By using this type of mechanism, the entire platform, with the A-frame building on top of it, can be rotated in any direction as a hurricane passes over. This can keep the nose wedge pointed into the wind, thereby providing a highly streamlined shape that will have minimal wind resistance. If desired, the aligning process can be controlled or aided by a wind directional gauge outside the house, and by television or radio broadcasts, or similar information-providing means that can either: (i) help a person inside the building recognize and anticipate any important wind shifts, or (ii) enable a fully automated system to carry out the operation, while owners who have evacuated the area wait out the storm in a safe location.

As with the panel system designed to protect square or rectangular buildings, discussed above and illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 4, the panels that will be used to protect an A-frame building must be securely affixed to the ground. However, because of various factors (including the lower widths and lower stresses that will be created, during a hurricane), a three-point or even two-point attachment mechanism is likely to be sufficient for a protective panel affixed to an A-frame building. In addition, because most of the weights of these triangular panels will be close to the ground, substantially lower lifting weights will be involved, and they likely can be provided by using a simple but strong pulley, attached to the peak of the roof at each end. Any desired number of attachment devices can be provided along each vertical edge of a panel.

FIG. 7 illustrates another option that can be used with an A-frame building 300, to reduce their wind resistance even more, if desired. In this embodiment, the “peak” or “crest” portion of building 300 is created by mounting a series of wedge-shaped modular segments, on top of the base portion of the building. For example, an A-frame building that is 40 feet long can be given a “crest” height by four upper modules, each 10 feet long. Proper reinforcing for this type of design, with “modular” crest portions that can be removed if a hurricane is approaching, typically will require at least one and possibly more spaced cross-beams, on top of the base portion and/or along the lower edges of the roof peak segments. Accommodating holes will allow the cross-beams on both the base portion and the upper modules to be securely bolted together, during normal use.

If a hurricane approaches, any beds or other furniture would lowered from the upper floor of the building, for temporary storage on the main floor. Any other securing attachments that connect the crest modules to each other or to the base portion of the building would be unbolted or otherwise disconnected, and the crest modules segments would lifted and removed from the base portion, with assistance from a crane. While the hurricane passes over, those modules would be put into protective storage, which may be inside the base portion of the building, or in any other protected location.

A large flat panel 310 is then secured to the open top of the base, such as by using threaded bolts, which when tightened can cause panel 310 to compress a rubbery gasket-type liner component, thereby sealing the periphery of panel 310 to building base 300 in a watertight manner. By reducing the height of an A-frame building in this manner, the wind resistance of the building can be greatly reduced.

If desired, triangular panels 332-338 can also be affixed to this type of “shortened” A-frame building, to create sloping and streamlined “nose” and “tail” wedges segments, which will further reduce the wind resistance of the building. If desired, this type of building can be mounted on a rotatable platform as described above, to allow the “nose wedge” (or the longest dimension of the building, if a nose wedge is not used) to remain pointed into the wind at all times, as a hurricane passes over.

Installation Equipment and Manpower

The work required to prepare for a hurricane can be carried out by a team of able-bodied workers, with the aid of portable cranes that can be moved quickly from house to house. For example, in a location such as a housing subdivision on or near a coast, the panels and their reinforcing trusses can be stored in a central location in or near the subdivision, or they can be delivered by a service company, government agency, active or reserve military unit, etc.

A team of several able-bodied workers, using portable cranes and power tools (including power drills or wrenches, to quickly secure and tighten threaded fasteners) would be able to affix the panels relatively quickly, requiring roughly an hour or so for each home. Since modern tracking of hurricanes provides at least a day's notice (and usually more) before landfall, this would allow dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of small teams of homeowners, service crews, high school athletes, military personnel, welfare recipients, etc., to quickly install protective panels on thousands of homes that sit in the path of an approaching hurricane.

For example, a housing subdivision located near the shore along a southern coast might require, as one of the obligations of membership in the subdivision, that each home in the subdivision must provide (either directly, or by paying for the services of) help and support from at least one able-bodied male between the ages of 15 and 55, who must help secure at least 10 (or 20, or 30) homes before he either evacuates, or heads for a nearby fortified building to ride out the storm. Similarly, any such subdivision can require that every such team must hold a training and drill session at least once a year, to ensure continuity of the team regardless of residency turnover within the subdivision.

It also should be recognized that the panels and/or frames described herein can be used for any of various purposes, when not needed for a brief period of protection against a hurricane or other major storm. For example, a long panel can be subdivided into segments. To prepare for a hurricane, the segments can be bolted onto one or more frame or truss components; however, once the hurricane has passed, the panel segments can be used to create decks, storage sheds, carports, stalls or shelters for various activities on a beach or near a coastline, or other types of structures.

Similarly, frame or truss segments that are used to support and reinforce protective panels during a hurricane can be used in various types of structures, when a hurricane is not threatening. For example, these types of truss or frame segments could be used to provide raised platforms for lifeguard stands along a beach, supports for fences that can help control wind and sand movement near a coastline, elevated towers that can support wind generators, frame supports for carports or storage sheds, etc. Such frame or truss segments can be specifically designed in ways that will allow them to be rapidly unbolted and removed from one set of fixed anchoring devices (which would be designed for normal long-term use, when hurricanes are not threatening), and rapidly affixed to a different set of anchoring devices (which would be designed to protect a building against a hurricane or other major storm).

It should also be noted that some types of composite materials, if made entirely from hydrophobic and waterproof synthetic materials by means such as described in the Background section, may be well-suited for offshore use, in ways that would put them into direct and prolonged contact with sea water, when not needed for hurricane protection. Such uses might include, for example, piers, walkways, and other structures used in or near docks or marinas; platforms or other structures for snorkelers and scuba divers who visit or tend coral or artificial reefs; platforms or shelters for sailboarding, jet ski, or other rentals or activities located beyond the surf zone; and other such uses.

Accordingly, the panels and frames disclosed herein can be designed to be securely but reversibly affixed (either directly, using devices such as threaded bolts and nuts made of stainless steel, graphite, or other non-corroding materials, or via other types of linkages, such as chains, cables, etc.) to permanent anchoring or other support devices, for marine use. If a hurricane threatens, the panels and frames can be uncoupled from the marine structures, cleaned to remove barnacles, algae, or other growth if necessary, transported to onshore building locations, and affixed to anchoring devices that will allow them to protect buildings during the hurricane. After the hurricane has passed, the panels and frames can then be returned to their other uses.

It should also be noted that these designs are not limited to use along coastlines or other areas that may be hit by hurricanes. Instead, these designs can be adapted for any locations where high winds can pose serious risks to buildings, either directly, or in combination with other factors or agents. Such uses may include, for example, use in mountainous areas, including passes where nearby slopes can create funneling effects that create exceptionally high winds, as well as deserts, high plains, and similar locations where sand or dust storms pose serious risks. In addition, these types of designs can also be adapted for various types of military, civilian, and industrial installations, where the storage of large quantities of fuels, explosives, or similar materials can pose substantial risks of damage if a major blast occurs. In such locations, buildings such as A-frames with nose and wedge sections that are aligned in a way that points toward the largest tanks, depots, or other locations where large quantities of explosive materials are held, can provide better protection against a catastrophic explosion than other types of structures currently in use.

Similarly, the types of structures that can be protected by these types of panel systems are not limited to buildings designed to be inhabited by people; instead, such buildings can include, for example, buildings that enclose or otherwise protect equipment, supplies, inventory, or other tangible items. In addition, these types of panel systems also can be installed permanently, if desired, on most types of buildings.

Proposal for Trenched Barriers with Liftable Panels

In addition to the foregoing, FIG. 10 illustrates a proposed additional system 500 for protecting coastal homes not just against high winds, but against flooding as well. This system can use a combination of several distinct elements, such as described below.

System 500 includes barrier device 510, shown in a cross-sectional side (elevation) view. This barrier device comprises a long and strong waterproof panel 510, as described above except with a smaller width (such as about 4 to 8 feet, or about 1 to 2.5 meters). Each long panel 510 will be affixed to a series of hinges 512, and will rest on top of a buried trough 514, made of a material such as reinforced concrete, fiberglass, etc., which can be emplaced deep enough beneath surrounding ground surface 490 to allow normal lawn growth on top of the panel 510. Each panel can and preferably should be reinforced by a frame or truss mounted on its underside.

When a hurricane is approaching, a narrow groove can be rapidly cut through the lawn, directly over the lifting edge 516 of the panel. An external cart-mounted pump can be coupled to a hydraulic hose system. When the pump is turned on, the fluid pressure it generates will force a series of telescoping cylinders (or pistons) 520 to extend. This will lift the edge 516 of panel 510, causing it to rotate about hinge 512 until it reaches a desired sloping angle; this typically will also cause the soil on top of panel 510 to form a mound 492. Alternately, mechanical lifting systems (with designs that can be based upon, for example, automobile jacks, portable winches, etc.) can be used to help lift and rotate a hinge-mounted panel 510 until it reaches a desired angle, which will allow it to be locked in position, at a sloping angle, by means of support struts or similar devices.

When panel 510 has reached its desired angle, it is effectively locked into that position by any one or more of several means, such as: (i) affixing a series of very strong bars, struts, pipes, angle irons, or other devices that have fixed lengths, at roughly the same angles as the hydraulic cylinders, but at different locations along the length of panel 510; and, (ii) using seawater or any other water supply to partially fill a series of long bladders 530 (which also can be partially filled with sand, gravel, or other material, if desired), causing the bladders to expand until they press against and support the bottoms of the panels, as shown. It should also be noted that: (i) filling of properly-designed bladders or other devices, using seawater or any other water supply, may eliminate any need for an additional hydraulic system that uses telescoping pistons 520; (ii) such bladders can be constructed from, and reinforced by, nearly any desired type of flexible material, with more than enough strength to carry out such tasks if premium-grade materials are used, and the preferred choice of lifting mechanisms will be driven by economic rather than technical factors.

Similarly, hybrid systems that involve various cylinder-type and bladder-type components can be operated sequentially, using manual and/or automated valve arrangements. This would allow the use of a single pump and motor system, which preferably should be able to handle both seawater and fresh water, to elevate the panels prior to arrival of a hurricane, and then to handle suction drainage, to remove unwanted water from the trench via a drainage pipe 550, as the hurricane passes over. Use of a single pumping system for all three of those sequential operations can be advantageous, since the pump is likely to be relatively expensive, and since the pump and motor will require careful installation and sheltering, to provide the pumping system with the best possible likelihood of continuing to run, even during the worst part of a hurricane, when continued drainage of water from the trench will be most important.

A high-volume drainage pipe 550, having a slotted, meshed, fabric, or other surface that is readily permeable to water, can be placed in the trench. When the trench begins to fill with water, suction can be provided by a large-capacity pump driven by a diesel, gasoline, or other powerful motor or engine, which can be positioned within a small and heavily-fortified shelter; alternately, since there will be an oversupply of wind power when any major storm is passing through, the pumping system can be powered by a wind generator, which can drive either a mechanical or electrical system. Drainage pipe 550 can be protected from potential undesired motion of bladder 530, by means of a mechanical “stop” 552 (which can be a grate that covers and shelters drainage pipe 550, if desired).

If this type of movable barrier system is used, it can reduce the risk of flooding of a building that is bring protected, especially in areas close to but not directly in the path of a major hurricane, and in areas that are more than one or two hundred yards from a coastline. It can also help create a sturdy “wind break” immediately upwind from a house or other building, thereby reducing the likelihood of wind damage to the home, especially if the building is also protected by a panel system as described herein.

Alternately or additionally, various aspects of the anchoring systems, and of the synthetic waterproof materials disclosed herein, indicate that a sloped wall can be created by assembling units that would have sizes that would be roughly comparable to various types of blocks or bricks used in settings such as commercial construction, landscaping, etc. These blocks or bricks preferably should be provided with a sloping wall on one side, and after the first (i.e., bottom, lowest) row of blocks or bricks have been securely affixed on top of a poured concrete or similar footing or foundation, the next row would be added in a “staggered” manner. This would create a relatively smooth yet angled and sloping “face” for the wall. Those skilled in mechanical arts can readily design or adapt various types of supporting and interlocking mechanisms, which already have been developed for use in retainer walls, in which brick-type units stacked on top of each other must hold back heavy and often water-saturated earthen loads. If desired, the unexposed (or rear, leeward, etc.) side of this type of wall can be supported by a reinforced panel of the type disclosed herein, or by any other suitable structure.

Two final points need to be made. First, a geometric shape called a “tetrahedron”, which is made by assembling a total of four triangles (with a triangular base, as distinct from Egyptian-type pyramids, which have square bases) is widely found in nature (such as in chemistry, in which atoms larger than helium have their valence electrons and bonds arranged in tetrahedral arrangements, as illustrated by methane, CH4). Because of the inherent stability of triangles, as mentioned in the Background section, a tetrahedron is the most stable shape that can enclose a volume.

That example found in nature merits attention and analysis. It may be that a tetrahedral shape (or some combination of tetrahedral shapes attached to each other), will provide the most efficient forms of shelter and storage that can be assembled from panels, in which each additional square foot or meter of the panel material costs additional money.

By way of example, a pyramid with a square base, as illustrated in FIG. 3, can be regarded as being formed by attaching two tetrahedrons to each other, at an imaginary plane that divides the square pyramid shown in FIG. 5 into a left side, and a right side. Accordingly, if the square pyramid in FIG. 4 were stretched out to longer dimensions along the left-to-right axis, in a way that would give the base an elongated “diamond” shape, that structure would enclose more volume, and it would have a more streamlined shape that likely could resist even higher winds than the square-base pyramid in FIG. 4. Accordingly, computer modeling, and testing of scale models in wind tunnels, should be carried out, to explore the question of how a truly optimized size, shape, and internal volume can be provided, using a fixed and limited amount of paneling. The primary dimensions that will be of interest in such testing will be the length, width, and height of a single tetrahedron, or of a double-tetrahedron pyramid having a square or diamond-shaped base.

Finally, certain aspects of the systems described herein tend to suggest that optimal safety and reliability may be provided, in areas close to a beach or coastline, if the barrier and trench assembly (or other type of protective panel system) is oriented with a corner, rather than a flat face, pointing toward the sea. If a hurricane passes through, this orientation will tend to offer the greatest likelihood that the barrier or other panel system can provide a “plowing” or “wedging” action, which can help divide and deflect winds, rains, and floodwaters. This is comparable to the way a well-designed boat hull has a pointed bow (front end) to help it travel through the water more easily and with less resistance. This type of “diagonal” orientation (which might also be referred to by terms such as corner-out, corner-first, diagonal, etc.) can help ensure that the strongest winds and floodwater surges will be divided and deflected, at the point where they encounter the outermost corner of the sloping panel structure. This will increase the likelihood that the wind and water will flow around the structure without damaging it, rather than imposing their full force against a large flat surface that is effectively perpendicular to the force. Accordingly, a diagonal orientation for these structures may help deflect and minimize the types of problems that were described as “parachute” or “umbrella” effects, in the Background section.

Thus, there has been shown and described a set of new and useful devices and methods for making buildings much more resistant to very high winds, including hurricane-force winds. Although this invention has been exemplified for purposes of illustration and description by reference to certain specific embodiments, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various modifications, alterations, and equivalents of the illustrated examples are possible. Any such changes which derive directly from the teachings herein, and which do not depart from the spirit and scope of the invention, are deemed to be covered by this invention.