What do you do when you want to build a worry-free home on land that also happens to be a 100-year flood plain? If you're smart, you'll do what the owner of Delta Shelter did and have Olson Kundig Architects build you a metal fortress to withstand the elements in style. The compact 1,000 sq ft (93 sq m) steel-walled hideaway with a footprint of only 200 sq ft (18.6 sq m) looks ready to handle whatever the Washington wilderness can throw at it - even, perhaps, a 1,000-year flood.

The three-level cabin (bomb shelter is more like it) rests on four steel beams and is covered with heavy-duty 16-gauge hot-rolled sheet steel over plywood walls. As if that weren't unusual enough, it also has four 10 ft x 18 ft (3 m x 5.5 m) metal shutters that can be opened and closed with a large hand-powered wheel and a clever array of cables, drives shafts, spur gears and u-joints to protect the windows on each side - so no worries about getting caught with the shutters open in power outages when big storms roll through.

Schematic of the Delta Shelter (Image: Olson Kundig Architects)

The ground floor is half carport, half storage room with the actual entrance on the middle level, which leads to two small bedroom/bathroom combos. The kitchen, living room and dining room are on the top level. Floors of industrial strength 3 in x 6 in (7.6 cm x 15.2 cm) tongue-and-groove lumber add further heft to the construction and steel decks cantilever out from both the top and middle levels for added space.

To minimize waste and adverse impact to the building site, the bulk of the structure was pre-fabricated elsewhere, thus adding to the overall sustainability of the entire project. Indeed, the steel's weathered, rusty patina makes the structure look like it's been there all along, maybe one of the highest compliments you can pay to an architect striving to be green.

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