Architecture

Tsunami House built to handle nature's worst

Tsunami House built to handle ...
The decor is distinctly low-maintenance and industrial (Photo: Lucas Henning)
The decor is distinctly low-maintenance and industrial (Photo: Lucas Henning)
View 27 Images
Tsunami House, by Designs Northwest Architects (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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Tsunami House, by Designs Northwest Architects (Photo: Lucas Henning)
Designs Northwest Architects strove to add some warmth in the main living areas with cedar wood and ample natural light (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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Designs Northwest Architects strove to add some warmth in the main living areas with cedar wood and ample natural light (Photo: Lucas Henning)
The house has been built to withstand the worst nature can throw at it (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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The house has been built to withstand the worst nature can throw at it (Photo: Lucas Henning)
Tsunami House is located in a flood-prone section of Camano Island (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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Tsunami House is located in a flood-prone section of Camano Island (Photo: Lucas Henning)
The house sits atop 1.5 m (5 ft) high pilings built to withstand a tsunami (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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The house sits atop 1.5 m (5 ft) high pilings built to withstand a tsunami (Photo: Lucas Henning)
Of course, we'll only really know for sure if Tsunami House's design is successful should the worst happen (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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Of course, we'll only really know for sure if Tsunami House's design is successful should the worst happen (Photo: Lucas Henning)
The main living area is on the second floor, accessed via tough bent plate steel stairs (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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The main living area is on the second floor, accessed via tough bent plate steel stairs (Photo: Lucas Henning)
The ground floor, dubbed the "flood room," is a multi-use area (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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The ground floor, dubbed the "flood room," is a multi-use area (Photo: Lucas Henning)
The ground floor walls are designed to break away if a tsunami does strike, thus leaving the integrity of the upper floor intact (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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The ground floor walls are designed to break away if a tsunami does strike, thus leaving the integrity of the upper floor intact (Photo: Lucas Henning)
Tsunami House, by Designs Northwest Architects (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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Tsunami House, by Designs Northwest Architects (Photo: Lucas Henning)
The decor is distinctly low-maintenance and industrial (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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The decor is distinctly low-maintenance and industrial (Photo: Lucas Henning)
Tsunami House, by Designs Northwest Architects (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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Tsunami House, by Designs Northwest Architects (Photo: Lucas Henning)
The house sits on the waterfront (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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The house sits on the waterfront (Photo: Lucas Henning)
Designs Northwest Architects strove to add some warmth in the main living areas with cedar wood and ample natural light (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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Designs Northwest Architects strove to add some warmth in the main living areas with cedar wood and ample natural light (Photo: Lucas Henning)
The main living area is on the second floor, accessed via tough bent plate steel stairs(Photo: Lucas Henning)
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The main living area is on the second floor, accessed via tough bent plate steel stairs(Photo: Lucas Henning)
A loft bedroom is accessed by ladder (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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A loft bedroom is accessed by ladder (Photo: Lucas Henning)
The main living area is on the second floor, accessed via tough bent plate steel stairs(Photo: Lucas Henning)
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The main living area is on the second floor, accessed via tough bent plate steel stairs(Photo: Lucas Henning)
The ground floor, dubbed the "flood room," is a multi-use area (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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The ground floor, dubbed the "flood room," is a multi-use area (Photo: Lucas Henning)
Architectural drawing (Image: Designs Northwest Architects)
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Architectural drawing (Image: Designs Northwest Architects)
Architectural drawing (Image: Designs Northwest Architects)
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Architectural drawing (Image: Designs Northwest Architects)
Tsunami House, by Designs Northwest Architects (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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Tsunami House, by Designs Northwest Architects (Photo: Lucas Henning)
The house has been built to withstand the worst nature can throw at it (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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The house has been built to withstand the worst nature can throw at it (Photo: Lucas Henning)
(Photo: Lucas Henning)
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(Photo: Lucas Henning)
The house sits atop 1.5 m (5 ft) high pilings built to withstand a tsunami (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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The house sits atop 1.5 m (5 ft) high pilings built to withstand a tsunami (Photo: Lucas Henning)
The decor is distinctly low-maintenance and industrial (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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The decor is distinctly low-maintenance and industrial (Photo: Lucas Henning)
Designs Northwest Architects strove to add some warmth in the main living areas with cedar wood and ample natural light (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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Designs Northwest Architects strove to add some warmth in the main living areas with cedar wood and ample natural light (Photo: Lucas Henning)
Tsunami House is located in a flood-prone section of Camano Island (Photo: Lucas Henning)
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Tsunami House is located in a flood-prone section of Camano Island (Photo: Lucas Henning)
View gallery - 27 images

From Hurricane Katrina to the Polar Vortex which has buried large swathes of North America under snow, we're frequently reminded that when extreme weather hits, the results can be devastating. Tsunami House, by Designs Northwest Architects, has been built to withstand the worst nature can throw at it: high winds, storms, and yes, even a tsunami.

Located in a flood-prone section of Camano Island, Washington, the recently completed two-story (plus loft) waterfront home sits atop 1.5 m (5 ft) high pilings designed to take abuse from a high velocity tsunami wave. The ground floor, dubbed the "flood room," is a multi-use space which sports walls designed to break away if a tsunami hits, thus leaving the integrity of the upper areas intact.

A loft bedroom is accessed by ladder (Photo: Lucas Henning)
A loft bedroom is accessed by ladder (Photo: Lucas Henning)

The main living area is on the second floor, accessed via tough bent plate steel stairs. It contains bathroom, kitchen and dining area, master bedroom, and a loft bedroom accessible via ladder. The decor is distinctly low-maintenance and industrial, with concrete and glass the order of the day. However, Designs Northwest Architects strove to add some warmth to the main living areas with the use of cedar wood and plenty of windows to assure ample natural light.

Of course, we'll only ever really know for sure if the design of Tsunami House is successful should the worst happen. Hopefully that day never comes.

Source: Designs Northwest Architects via ArchDaily

View gallery - 27 images
20 comments
fenshwey
Ìt looks very nice.
I'm not sure if it would stand up to a "worst in recorded history" tsunami. I think the concrete pillars would be damaged from a boat hitting the house or something.
I basically don't think there is any way to defeat weather unless you live in a bunker.
I'm probably being over negative because I don't like to taunt nature.
windykites
The downstairs area with its rollup windows looks like a converted garage. If I was designing a house for these weather conditions. I would use the ground floor only as a garage.backspace, for a car and a boat. Any furniture get washed away in a severe storm.
There is no reason not to have a proper staircase. Who wants to climb up the ladder, every time they want to go upstairs?
There is such a large frontal area, which in the event of a tsunami would act like a sail and the whole house would get washed away. I would certainly make the sea-facing wall pointed like the bow of a ship. Hopefully the windows would be made of polycarbonate.
No doubt this house is very expensive, and to my mind not fit for purpose. Caveat emptor!
rik.warren
The ladder to the bedroom with no bath makes this otherwise excellent design impractical. I won't question the makers claim to storm worthiness but I believe future storms will be much more energetic than the past.
ANBU
Small house. And yea, the ladder would be annoying. I would think a spiral staircase might be better suited, even though it'd have a slightly larger footprint.
In reality, this house is a modern version of a house built on stilts like you'd find down in the Keys.
I think the house would quell most storm surges, given it's concrete wall oceanside that would block the brunt of the impact and you'd have to remember to open the garage doors to let the water flow through.
The wind from a hurricane would be an interesting factor, though. I'm guessing the "wedge" built for the oceanside wall on the main living area is supposed to deflect some of that impact?
Not sure how well it'd go against a tsunami though, given the relatively recent images from Japan.
ErnieBee
Totally agree with windykites1. Everything seaward should be ship's prow shape, including the pillars. Vertical posts should be structural steel pilings at every corner of the bldg, with diagonal bracing. Roll-up steel doors are mandatory. I'd make the "flood room" taller, as 5' headroom is pretty worthless, even if used for storage. I'd also have a seaward deck incorporating more tall steel pilings that would serve to block or divert incoming heavy debris.
Polycarbonate windows sound good but are visually fragile, i.e. scratch easily unless protected with replaceable ? film.
Another design would be a Noah's Ark approach - a v. sturdy ferro-cement hull made to float in high water, moored with cables for normal use.
Bucky Fuller talks about design for rare events in "No More Second-Hand God".
Matt Fletcher
Nice house but not so nice for a storm shelter. Low level flooding proof yes, tsunami or hurricane proof no. You can see in the drawings where normal sea level is and also see the 2nd floor is only about 10-12 ft above high tide. Not so tsunami or hurricane proof if all it can handle is a 10-12 ft tidal surge. Nor does the 2nd floor appear to be built with materials that are reinforced and tied to the foundation. House looks nice and elegant but I wouldn't stay in it during any kind of significant storm surge. Good luck with that.
kilgatron
I'm also skeptical of this design standing up to tsunami forces, in fact, I giggle thinking about it because of the immense speed and weight of tsunami force. The claim is really not to be believed.
kamaaina
Tsunami proof sounds definitely an overstatement. If the architect studied the aftermath of the massive Tohoku earthquake, they might think twice to call it tsunami proof.
-A few meters thick and 5-6m (15-18ft) high concrete wave breakers were broken completely at some places. The force hitting the concrete is literally tons, I understand. Many houses were swept away from the concrete foundation on up. Tsunamis can easily cave underneath.
-Washington State shows it was hit by a massive tsunami before humans settled there, and if I remember right, the height of the tsunami would have easily swallowed this house.
-There were many earthquake proof houses in Tohoku that stood gutted after the tsunami. Since glasses will be broken regardless of what they are made of, if the second floor is filled up with water, you have no chance of survival.
Chizzy
As a fellow washington coaster, I really like this house. I would want stairs to the loft, and a bathroom up there, too, make it a master loft. I'd also want either a roof deck, or a second floor deck for watching the ocean (camano doesn't have an ocean view, it has sound view). As far as height for tsunami protection, camano island is buried behind other islands, and already sheltered. I'm on the long beach peninsula, the only shelter I have from a tsunami is outrunning it.
Dan Lewis
The opening photo of the article makes it quite clear that the house in question IS NOT ready for nature's worst. Come on!
First, notice the clear material on the bottom floor.
Unless that clear material (possibly glass) is not ultra strong and ultra reinforced it certainly is NOT going to stand up to a wall of water moving at 50 miles an hour.
Get real. Write better, more honest, articles. Don't you care to have pride in your work? Please stop telling the masses falsehoods. Thanks, so much.