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Moore builder Jay London uses tornado-resistant technology

Technology has drastically reduced concerns about cost and aesthetics that led builders away from concrete and masonry construction after the 1950s, according to the owner of a shelter manufacturer.
BY TIM FALL Modified: January 9, 2014 at 11:42 am •  Published: January 11, 2014

— Last June, probably every builder in the state was eyeing Moore as an opportunity, a cautionary tale and a massive challenge, all in one — such was the legacy of the May 20 tornado.

Jay London, builder and founder of Jay London Homes LLC, looked at the miles and miles of debris and wondered whether something could be done to protect houses if and when the next tornado struck.

London's vision culminated in the late-December delivery and installation of a prefabricated concrete disaster-resistant shell that encapsulates a portion of the living area of a home he's building in Moore.

Making up nearly a third of the 1,885-square-foot house's structural support, the 85,000-pound concrete monolith was lifted by crane from the flatbed truck that delivered it and anchored to the slab foundation where it “snapped in like a Lego block,” London said.

The five-sided shell — four walls and a ceiling — creates a nearly 600-square-foot enclosure, engineered to withstand catastrophic winds such as EF5 tornadoes and hurricanes.

Inside the shell, manufactured with openings for impact-resistant windows and hurricane shutters, London framed up two bedrooms and a bathroom.

With siding on the exterior and drywall on the interior, and with wooden rafters overhead supporting a traditional roofline, “you'd never know” that a third of the house behind that facade is essentially “one big safe room,” London said.

“Usually your safe room is a master closet, or in the garage,” London said, but in this design a homeowner can hear the sirens of a tornado warning but “just stay in bed and watch TV to see what happens.”

London said his bet in building the home, at 1601 Post Oak Lane in Moore, was that “there's a homeowner out there looking for the safety of a concrete shelter without giving up livable space.”

Opportunity knocks

London first met John Greenwald, president of Montenero U.S., the Jacksonville, Fla.-based manufacturer of the monolithic concrete shell, in Moore following the May 20 tornado.

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