The Condo Owner’s Guide To A Catastrophe-Proof Condo Design

Most people think about condo design and automatically their brain pulls up thoughts of pendant lighting, smart furniture or pastel colors. That’s perfectly understandable, especially since such residences are rented out or sold by appealing to people’s desire for comfort or standard of living. But condo space planning isn’t just about making your home pretty. You’ve got to make sure that your place is designed practically and securely as well.

Your condo should be more than a place of rest: it should also be a sanctuary, where you can relax and be safe. A proper condo home should, therefore, be properly inspected and secured against danger. Catastrophes such as fire, earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes can affect any home. To minimize their threat, your space needs to adapt.


Probably the most basic concept among fire safety experts is the fire triangle. Basically, it identifies three factors that can come together to create a fire: heat, fuel, and oxygen. So to prevent that eventuality, you’ve got to eliminate at least one side of the triangle.

You definitely can’t eliminate oxygen from your home, and many fires are sparked by heat sources that couldn’t be detected. So your best bet is to focus on possible fuel sources. Boxes, books and other paper-based materials can be a fire hazard, so avoid collecting them in large quantities. Consider investing in fireproof containers for documents that you absolutely must keep, or just scan them and save the soft copies if possible. You might also want to treat wooden furnishings with fire retardant and store accelerants away from heat sources.

Enable easy exits

It can be very difficult to save space in a small condo unit, but if you’re successful, it won’t just be aesthetically pleasing. You can use space-saving design to protect your home from any disasterbecause it can make getting to exits easier, which is another standard of fire safety.

Your first priority is to remove obstructions that can block escape paths.  This can take a lot of effort, especially assuming your condo space is limited and you have a lot of furniture. Of course, a lot of that hassle can be eliminated with space-saving furniture. Next, make sure that your doors open outward, which can also be troublesome if your unit’s doors swing inward and the doorjamb installed block it from the outside—in that case, you may have to find a handyman or contractor to help you re-orient your exits properly. If one of your windows opens out to a fire escape, take some time to check and ensure that it can be opened easily.


Keep furnishings fixed

Fortunate condo owners get to live in earthquake-proof communities, with buildings that have been designed to resist or safely sway with the shocks during such an event. Of course, not all building codes and jurisdictions are equal, so many others have to simply protect themselves and their spaces as much as they can.

You might not be able to assess the structural integrity of your condo unit. Even if you could, you probably can’t afford the engineering work required to fix any defects. So just focus on relatively smaller risks. Large and top-heavy appliances and furniture should be braced to the walls. Respond to earthquake and aftershock warnings by storing away small items that can fall and hurt inhabitants, for example glass vases that can shatter, metal knickknacks or picture frames.

Cut off the gas

One other big risk during earthquakes is of gas lines being compromised. The pipes or tubes that supply gas to homes are sturdy, but there are very few things that can withstand literally earthshaking forces. Needless to say, ruptured gas lines can be very dangerous.

Make sure gas outlets and lines are accessible. Always be familiar with the location of the valves controlling the gas supply to your home, and make sure you can easily access them in case you have to switch them off. If you use liquefied petroleum gas or a gas cylinder, then consider bracing it to a wall as well.



Direct drainage properly

In many countries, implementing flood-free home design is crucial, especially to protect your property against devastating water damage. This is relatively easier for those living in houses since they can decide to make any necessary structural changes. Condo owners don’t have as much control—but they do have some.

Try to figure out the low points in your home—that is, where the water would flow in case major flooding happens. If you’re lucky, the grading or slope of your floor leads to the bathroom or another point where water can harmlessly drain away. Otherwise, you might want to consider redoing your floors so that they’re level. This might be expensive, but it can help avoid potentially devastating water damage. Drains and other outlets for water to flow out should also be kept clear.

Eliminate electrical exposure

Here’s an interesting fact: pure water doesn’t conduct electricity, but a lot of the water in our surroundings contains ions and other impurities that allow electricity to flow. That’s why you don’t want to drop your hairdryer into your bathtub or get your toaster wet. If your home gets flooded, you have to follow some best practices for electrical safety. However, it’s much better to prevent such problems.

A decent elevation for electrical outlets is one foot above the floor; that’s the minimum safe height you should be aiming for. If you have an idea where the most flood-prone locations of your condo are, make sure you don’t use electrical strips, extension cords or other such accessories that are placed on the floor. Inspect your appliances and other electronics for frayed or exposed wiring, and apply electrical tape where necessary. Finally, be familiar with where the circuit breaker in your condo is, and practice turning the switches off in the case of an emergency.


Protect windows from the winds

Hurricane-force winds are very destructive and have the potential to take down entire houses. Condo units tend to be located in high-rise buildings, so in a sense, they’re safer; tenants can count on a sturdy home structure that won’t allow ceilings to collapse on them. However, there’s still a risk of the winds breaking the windows.

Storm shutters are a popular solution for homeowners. Designed to resist or minimize strong wind forces, they’re installed on the outer side of homes to protect windows. The problem is that they’re not so easy to install in high-rise condos. If you want windows that can resist hurricane-force air currents, consider getting a tempered glass. Window films add an extra layer of protection; even if the glass breaks, the film can keep the glass pieces together so that you don’t get injured by flying shards.

Prepare just-in-case illumination

Hurricanes can also cut off power supplies to houses, neighborhoods, and entire city blocks. A strong wind can down power lines, or carry pieces of debris that can damage electrical transformers. So in those cases,  you’ll want to have backup lighting prepared.

Many condominiums have a generator to supply a decent amount of power to residents. If your building isn’t equipped with one, you can install emergency lamps; they store electricity and automatically switch on when the main power goes out. You could also go for a smart bulb that stores energy. Have flashlights or headlamps handy too. While many smartphones can be used as flashlights, it’s better to use them for calls and text messages during emergencies.

With so many condominium communities offering convenience and comfort, condo owners like you can get used to living the good life. The harsh reality is that calamities can happen even in well-built places. It’s much easier to be optimistic, but with some healthy pessimism along with a practical and sturdy home structure, you’ll be better prepared for the worst.