Peek-Ancona Now Getting Lots of Requests for their Flood-Proof Architecture
Peek-Ancona designed this house in Stinsons Beach in Northern California to cope with flooding. It is in a coastal region that is subject to high-hazard tsunami and coastal flooding, and will be more so as our climate destabilization continues to increase dangers.
They designed this addition to a Stinsons Beach cottage, cantilevered out above potential wave-heights, with a high steel truss system, in order to house the maximum amount of space above flood level.
It uses a completely novel kind of foundation. Normally piles are sunk down, sometimes as much as 40 feet deep in the earth, in an attempt to cling to its bedrock position in an emergency, in regions like this. To cling; not to float.
Peek-Ancona’s “pontoon” method not only uses less materials and labor, but it builds on the experience of the architects in Venice. “We were inspired by the floating architecture of Venice,” says Mathew Peek, who studied there on a Fulbright scholarship.
Instead, this foundation is just set flat on the sand. Like a pontoon, it is deliberately engineered to be light enough so that in the event of flooding, it floats slightly in the wet soil.
It is still heavy enough, with a hybrid anchor and weighted perimeter system, so that the entire house remains more or less in place, rather than being swept away.
In addition, as the water level rises, the non load-bearing walls are spring-loaded to simply flip up and float out on top, presenting no resistance to water flowing right through the open space recreation area on the ground floor, while not damaging the conditioned spaces above.
To reduce the destructive power of flood surges, the walls on the ground floor were designed to be flipped up, using a spring loaded mechanism. Only the load bearing structure remains. Vents at the bottom of the garage doors let water in as it begins to rise.
Only this wall – a re-cladding of the original cottage next door – was not designed to flip up to let the water through. Warm cedar and steel are used throughout.
In the conditioned spaces on the second floor, radiant-heated bamboo flooring, and muted light green walls balance the warm cedar and gray steel.
The aesthetic is typical of the unpretentious building vernacular of Marin’s Pacific Coast.
Chrome and blue slate offsets the steel and cedar in the bathroom. Throughout the new addition, passive solar design, natural ventilation, and ocean views prevail. It’s all lovely.
But Mathew Peek tells me that they are fielding a real tsunami of calls now, from as far away as from Asia, about their innovative flip-up design for flood proofing.