By Nick Fonda
Mario Corriveau’s house, set about 175 feet back from the road, seems tidy and attractive, but otherwise quite ordinary.
The first surprise upon seeing it is that the exterior finish, which from the road seems to be in beautifully weathered cedar shingles, is in fact a facsimile in stamped and painted steel. Similarly, the exposed, hand-hewn, 10-inch beams that stretch across the main floor ceilings and look as if they were salvaged from an old barn are, in fact, only as old as the house. But the big surprise in Mario’s house is now invisible: its frame.
“The technique involves reinforced concrete sandwiched between interlocking Styrofoam blocks,” Mario Corriveau explains. “It’ a design that was conceived to withstand hurricanes, and in theory can withstand winds up to 450 km/hr. because the walls are anchored to the foundations with cement and iron rods.”
Needless to say, he hopes that he’ll again never experience, as he once did, the destructive winds of a tornado, an experience that prompted him, a few years later, to build a hurricane-proof house.
Mario’s firmly anchored house sits on the site of a previous house, which he had also built, and from which he witnessed a tornado at very close proximity in the summer of 2016.
“I was sitting in my solarium when I noticed the sky turn suddenly dark,” he recalls. “A moment later, through the windows, debris seemed to be flying everywhere. I couldn’t see 20 feet beyond the house. I felt the house cracking and I jumped up and put myself under a doorway so that I might have some slight protection. The wind noise was unimaginable. Then it stopped as quickly as it started. The tornado only lasted 15 seconds.”