Hurricane Sandy brought more than two feet of water inside 85 percent of homes in Union Beach, New Jersey, a low-to-middle income shoreside community south of Staten Island. In all, 315 homes (15 percent of the total housing stock) in the borough of 6,200 were damaged beyond repair, and demolished.
Led by Jennifer Maier, resident and founder of the nonprofit Rebuilding Union Beach, the community built back. Rebuilding Union Beach commissioned the design and construction of flood-proof modular homes that now house 14 displaced families.
The prefabricated homes, available in eight different styles, measure 950–1350 square feet, depending on the household’s size. Constructed off-site, each took three to six weeks to build (excluding shipping and installation), at an average cost of $220,000 each. In tandem with homebuilding assistance, Rebuilding Union Beach helped homeowners apply for government assistance, insurance, and other storm recovery programs.
These homes are reinforced to withstand another hurricane, and attendant 115 mile per hour winds. Rebuilding Union Beach touts the structures’ “cement board siding, hurricane strapping, renewable and non-toxic materials, rainwater catchment, erosion-resistant planting, and solar panels.”
To help recovering communities in the region, the organization has shared their methods via a project guide. The project guide doubles as a process manual, sharing which interventions worked for the community and which were less successful. The guide explains, for example, that standard, three tab roof shingles have insufficient grip in high winds. Consequently, the houses were fitted with more durable, five tab shingles.
The project was funded by a $770,000 grant from the Robin Hood Sandy Relief Fund and a $1.67 million grant from New Jersey First Lady Mary Pat Christie’s Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund.