A waterfront home built from glass, concrete, wood, and steel in Camano Island, Wash. — a sleepy, snowbird-heavy spot that’s about an hour’s drive northwest of Seattle and nestled right next to big sibling, Whidbey Island, in northern Puget Sound — has been garnering a good amount of attention as of late … but not necessarily because of its very Pacific Northwest maritime-meets-industrial chic appearance.

Among other things (7.8 magnitude earthquakes, 85 mph lateral winds, run-of-the-mill flooding, etc.), the Tsunami House from the waterfront housing specialists at Designs Northwest Architects — the same firm behind the lauded Thomas Eco-House in neaby Stanwood — is specifically and very carefully designed to stand tall and not topple when the high-velocity wave walls start to roll in.

The home’s not-so-secret weapon?

Located 9-feet below the home’s main living space is a multipurpose “flood room” with sliding, garage door-esque glass panels that are designed to break away when impacted by a sudden storm surge. During tsunami-like catastrophes, it’s a room that, in essence, takes one for the team. It’s also a room where everything, stylish furniture included, has been certified as waterproof.

The project architects explain the nuts and bolts behind this unique waterfront abode that trades in stilts with steel-reinforced support columns and usable, versatile living space:

The 887 square foot main living level had to be located 5′ above grade and the foundations had to be designed on pilings capable of withstanding high velocity tsunami wave action. The lower 748 square foot space had to be designed with walls that were able to break away in the event of a storm surge. Our design strategy was to locate the main living level 9′ above grade and leave the lower level to be used as a flexible multi use space dubbed the “Flood Room.” Clear glass overhead doors open up to the waterside deck facing north, and translucent overhead doors open to the entry courtyard facing south, allowing privacy from the road.

Speaking to Smithsonian Magazine, project architect Dan Nelson elaborates on how exactly the Flood Room helps to save the entire structure from collapse: “If the building was a solid wall instead of columns filled in with glass doors, the whole thing could collapse under the momentum of the wave. We opted to enable the building to stay intact by letting the water move through along a path of least resistance.”

He adds in regard to key difference between Tsunami House and its East Coast counterparts: "Even though the buildings there use the same principle as the one we designed, they basically don't do more than put a house on stilts. "What we've shown is that you can make a home that can withstand disasters and also look beautiful."

And although the Puget Sound doesn’t exactly scream “immanent tsunami danger,” the Tsunami House’s picturesque north Camano site is within a FEMA-designated high-velocity flood zone that’s close proximity to the Cascadia Subduction Zone renders it extremely vulnerable to massive megathrust-ers and the catastrophic waves that can result from these potentially devestating tremors.

Via [ArchDaily], [Smithsonian]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

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