Cruising for a Cure to Heartsickness

By Christopher E. Carter, P.E.

What do cruise ships and Colorado homes have in common? They both can move. One can make you seasick, and one can make you heartsick. Ironically, heart sickness may be the easier one to remedy, with the cure found in studying the ship building industry.

To illustrate my point, let me tell you about a cruise I went on with my family during fall break last year. We sailed around in the Caribbean, and occasionally ran into rough seas. A lot of people got seasick, but being an engineer, I was more interested in the ship’s structural performance through the big waves than with screaming the name of my former employer, Ralph.

The cabin structure and interior finishes seemed exempt from direct damage related to the violent ship movements. There were no surface cracks or leaks in the porthole windows. The ceiling did not shows signs of buckling or bowing. The floor remained flat with no localized humps or dips. However, I was concerned with some of the pitching and listing from time to time. And lastly, all doors remained operational (especially bathroom doors!) with no binding or frame racking. Pretty amazing!

In comparison, I was in a house the other day where the home owner was visibly heartsick. She was distressed over the financial consequences of foundation movement. You couldn’t perceive her foundation moving by being there, but you could detect it by looking at the basement wall – it had deflected inward about 3 inches and was obviously progressively failing.

So here’s my question: Why can’t we incorporate some of the movement-resistant design features of a cruise ship into our Colorado homes? Given the current economic slowdown in the home building industry, this would be a great time for front-end designers to ponder this question. Here is some (non-fattening) cruise ship food for thought:

I believe that if we apply some cruise ship design to our Colorado home building challenges, we will undoubtedly produce a fleet of next-generation homes likely to find safer harbor and smoother sailing, giving owners only an occasional need for Dramamine.