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Building better coastal homes

Coastal building is undergoing a dynamic change, one that can be seen in a residential community recently established in a hurricane-prone region.

Audubon Village is a master-planned coastal community on Bolivar Peninsula, a 27-mile-long barrier island on the Texas Gulf Coast north of Galveston. At its widest point, Bolivar Peninsula is only three miles across, which means homes there are particularly susceptible to damage from severe weather. It's also an incredibly pristine area that draws vacation homeowners, so in designing Audubon Village, the developers created beachside homes capable of withstanding high winds and storm surges.

The modular homes, which go by such Audubon-inspired names as the Sandpiper, the Pelican, the Seagull, the Heron and the Egret, are built on concrete pilings that allow elevations of 25 to 30 feet above sea level. The homes actually resemble some of the long-legged water birds after which they've been named. By being elevated, the homes can stay above rising water. They also provide unobstructed views of a nearby Audubon wilderness preserve on one side and the open sea on the other.

All of the homes, which are about 1,000 square feet with up to three bedrooms, are insurable through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and are built to guidelines under the Fortified for Safer Living program developed by the Institute for Business and Home Safety. As such, the homes can withstand winds of up to 130 miles per hour. They have impact-resistant windows and doors and include non-combustible roof materials that can withstand high winds and water penetration. Prices for homes range from $130,000 to $288,000.