October 02, 2017

Babcock Ranch storm readiness put to test

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

Florida Weekly

September 29, 2017


Located away from the coast on some of the highest ground in Southwest Florida, Babcock Ranch was designed with resiliency in mind. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, a survey of storm impacts at Babcock Ranch is strong evidence of the benefits of Florida’s enhanced building codes and the wisdom of locating growth inland on high ground beyond the threat of storm surge.

“Irma put our new town to the ultimate test,” said Syd Kitson, Chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners. “We took a direct hit from the eye of the storm and within a week, you had to look very carefully to see any impacts. While it is gratifying to see the results of our storm-hardening strategies, our hearts go out to those all around us who were not as fortunate.”

According to Kitson, none of the new town’s model homes suffered any water damage, and wind damage to home exteriors was minimal. While there was some wind-driven water intrusion in some of the commercial buildings at Founder’s Square, damage was minimal and quickly repaired. The most visible impact in the days immediately following the storm was to landscaping – which was not surprising given the number of trees planted within the last year. But a week later it was mostly restored to prestorm conditions.

“With our focus on native plants, our landscaping is also very resilient,” explained Rick Severance, President of Babcock Ranch. “The main job for us, with trees that had not yet established the root systems needed to stand up to the high winds, was to simply stand them back up – and they will quickly recover.” When properly designed and incorporated into the landscape, native plants reduce storm runoff and flooding, and improve surface water quality. They are also best equipped to stand up to natural conditions of the area. And by allowing natural pathways for water dictate the development footprint, the town reaps the benefits of natural storm water management systems that have been weathering storms for years. These are just a few of the ways that a respect for nature makes the town more resilient.

With natural disasters, sometimes storm preparation is not enough. Floridians are all too familiar with the physical and emotional damage hurricanes can inflict. And the real test of resiliency is not just how well structures weather the storm – but how quickly life gets back to normal after the storm passes.

“What is it worth to know you’ll never have to put your life on hold, pack up what you can fit in your car, and join a bumper to bumper exodus to get out of a storm’s path? What’s the value of a guaranteed quick recovery if and when a storm comes? It’s difficult to put a dollar value on it,” Kitson said. “Hurricane Irma showed us that if you build in the right place and adhere to the codes, the return on investment can be infinite.”

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