New building material rated to withstand a Category 5 hurricane

Building material comprised of large panels called polystyrene

ORLANDO, Fla. – Central Florida is booming with new construction of structures made mostly of wood frame or concrete block. But there is a new player in the market that is using a material you wouldn’t expect and rated to withstand a Category 5 hurricane.

This new building material is made up of large panels, that have the look and feel of Styrofoam, called polystyrene. These panels are equipped with double galvanized steel mesh on the outside and then finished with 2 inches of concrete on either side.

For Annette Rubin, the CEO and co-founder of Vero Building Systems, bringing this innovative technology to Florida all started during Hurricane Michael.

“I was feeling afraid for my kids and for my family and not knowing if my house was safe enough to survive the storm, to protect them from the winds that were coming,” Rubin recalled.

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And now five years later, the company is building its first model home using the new material at its Kissimmee manufacturing facility.

Compared to the typical wood and concrete building materials, these large and lightweight panels make for a much faster and more efficient way to build from the ground up.

“When you finish one whole story or room, it’s going to create a monolithic structure. So, all the concrete cures at the same time and it is one structure. Instead of a two-by-four, two-by-four, two-by-four drywall and many pieces, it’s one large piece that can stand alone,” Rubin said.

And the large piece can also stand up to major hurricanes, like the now famous home on Mexico Beach, Florida.

“They call it the Sand Palace, which was a home that was built with ICF (insulated concrete forms), which is very similar to our panels,” Rubin said. “That house was all over the news, that there was one home standing. Everything else was completely flattened, but there is one home that made it.”

It was then that Rubin found her company’s building technology, which originated in Italy 43 years ago.

Currently, there are 73 manufacturing plants across the globe that have produced one billion square feet of panels, with Vero Building Systems being the first exclusive panel plant in the southeast U.S.

“I don’t want people to have to experience what they experienced when I moved to Florida,” Rubin said. “Florida is an incredible place to live, and I would never want anyone to move down here and then be traumatized not knowing if their kids are going to make it through the night, not knowing if (their) home is safe.”

According to Vero Building Systems, its prices are comparable to concrete block homes, and about 10-20% cheaper than lumber. For more information on the manufacturer, click here.

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Candace Campos joined the News 6 weather team in 2015.