Disaster-Proof Architecture: 13 Super-Strong Structures

High-profile earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters have made it more clear than ever that in the face of climate change, stronger buildings able to withstand such events are not just advisable but necessary. These 13 designs range from fantastical concepts for entire floating cities to real homes that have already proven themselves disaster-proof, and from large-scale billion-dollar projects to low-cost housing solutions for the poor.

Earthquake-Proof ‘Coral Reef Island’ for Haiti

(images via: vincent callebaut)

After 2009’s massive earthquake wiped out much of Haiti’s infrastructure, the nation is still struggling to rebuild, and imaginative architect Vincent Callebaut has a suggestion: disaster-proof floating housing inspired by coral reefs. The Coral Reef Project consists of 1000 modular residences in dual wavy stacks, supported on an artificial pier built on seismic piles in the Caribbean. With energy harvested from the waves, hydro-turbines and sea thermal energy conversion, the structure improves the standard of living, providing green terraces for each plug-in ‘pod’ and simplifying delivery of supplies.

Soccer Ball-Shaped Floating Houses

(images via: treehugger)

From a doghouse to a 540-square-foot family dwelling, the ‘Barier’ is an earthquake-proof home shaped like a soccer ball that becomes a floating rescue ship in the event of a natural disaster. The 32-sided urethane-walled surface of the house distributes force, and the base acts as a ballast, ensuring that it stays upright if swept away in a tsunami.

Noah’s Ark – A Floating Hotel

(images via: yellowpelow)

In the event of an earthquake or flood, this hotel would be one of the safest buildings in town. The concept, designed by Remistudio, is structured to resist seismic impact and has an entirely transparent facade to create a biosphere that could allow food production if necessary. Solar panels and rainwater collection would provide inhabitants with energy and water and the bottom half of the hotel rests in a depression in the ground, allowing it to come loose and float.

Earthquake-Proof Solar-Powered Volcano Towers

(images via: ofis)

Looking like a strange sort of man-made volcano, the All-Seasons Tent Tower by OFIS Architecture is a multi-function cylindrical tower powered with solar energy and covered in a mesh skin that filters sunlight for temperature regulation. A system of concrete cores protects the interior – filled with apartments, shops, restaurants, offices and recreational space – from the impact of earthquakes.

Harvest City: Floating Concept for Haiti

(images via: yanko design)

Yet another natural disaster-proof concept takes Haiti from the land to the sea, creating an offshore haven  complete with agriculture and industry. Harvest City by E. Keven Schopfer is a complex of floating modules measuring 2 miles in diameter, with four zones connected by a linear system of canals.  Cables secure the whole complex, which includes a harbor ‘city center’, to the sea bed. The design even makes use of debris from the 2009 earthquake, putting concrete rubble to work as breakwater filler.

Sticky Rice Mortar in China

(image via: physorg)

Ancient Chinese construction workers found a secret recipe for mortar that has helped their buildings survive for centuries: it’s made with sticky rice. Chemists determined in 2010 that a complex carbohydrate in the ‘sticky rice soup’ which was mixed with lime and used to fill in gaps between stones over 1500 years ago is largely responsible for the strength of the structures, which have withstood multiple earthquakes and even bulldozers.

“Analytical study shows that the ancient masonry mortar is a kind of special organic-inorganic composite material,” the scientists explained. “The inorganic component is calcium carbonate, and the organic component is amylopectin, which comes from the sticky rice soup added to the mortar. Moreover, we found that amylopectin in the mortar acted as an inhibitor: The growth of the calcium carbonate crystal was controlled, and a compact microstructure was produced, which should be the cause of the good performance of this kind of organic-organic mortar.”

Floating Shipping Container Houses for Pakistan

(images via: inhabitat)

Millions of people remain homeless in Pakistan after disastrous 2010 floods – could low-cost, eco-friendly shipping container houses be the solution? The Amphibious Container concept by Richard Moreta is made with reused shipping crates and pallets, resting on a foundation of truck inner tubes which serve as a flotation device  in the event of high waters. It can handle a maximum water level of 7.5 feet.

Lilypad Floating City Concept

(images via: vincent callebaut)

Floating mega-cities are Vincent Callebaut’s specialty, and the Lilypad Floating Ecopolis is an especially beautiful example of imagination run wild. Designed for “ecological refugees” in the year 2100, the Lilypad is an amphibious self-sufficient city able to accommodate 50,000 people along with enough plants and animals to sustain them. The lower portion includes a submerged lagoon which filters rainwater.

Low-Income Disaster-Proof Bamboo Housing

(images via: inhabitat)

What if we could keep all of a home’s key elements in a disaster-proof core, surrounded by a bamboo structure that would be inexpensive to replace if a natural disaster destroyed it? That’s the idea behind this low-income housing concept by a group of Indian architects, a design that won the Design Against the Elements competition to create disaster-proof housing. Each three-story apartment complex contains an earthquake, wind and water-resistant core holding water and power lines, bathrooms, kitchens and stairways and an escape hatch to the roof. This provides a safe haven for a low cost, raising survival rates among the most vulnerable populations.

Hurricane-Proof Dome House in Florida

(images via: cyber sharp)

There are lots of cool concepts, but what about disaster-proof homes that have already been built and proven effective? This unusual-looking dome house in Pensacola Beach, Florida has survived four hurricanes including the devastating Katrina, Dennis and Ivan. Owners Mark and Valerie Sigler came up with this $7 million design after Hurricane Opal destroyed their previous house in 1995, leaving them without a residence for 14 months. During Hurricane Dennis in 2004, an NBC News crew stayed in the house and had this to say about it: “You have a one-piece concrete house with five miles of steel in it. The house did exactly what it’s supposed to do.”

Raised Home Escapes Hurricanes, Brush Fires & Floods

(images via: inhabitat)

The owners of this raised house, located on an island off the coast of South Carolina, were determined that their home be able to survive brush fires, hurricanes and floods. The resulting off-grid pre-fabricated house made of recycled steel and SIP panels is engineered to FEMA flood zone requirements and built on helical foundations to withstand 140-mile-per-hour winds. All that space under the house isn’t wasted – in fair weather, it functions as a screened-in shade porch.

The Citadel: Floating Apartment Complex in the Netherlands

(images via: citadelhetnieuwewater.nl)

Not content to simply talk about the dangers of rising sea levels (like much of the rest of the world), the Dutch have begun taking matters into their own hands with architecture that can withstand dramatic changes in the canals that are such an integral part of the Netherlands. As part of a new development called “New Water”, Koen Oltuls of Waterstudio designed ‘The Citadel’, Europe’s first floating apartment complex. 60 luxury apartments, a car park, a floating road and boat docks will work with the changing water levels rather than against them

Foundation (9 Boxes): Absurdist Architecture by Luke O’Sullivan

(images via: luke o’sullivan)

Technically, this isn’t an architecture concept; it’s a work of art – screenprint on wood by Luke O’Sullivan. But Foundation (9 Boxes) still offers an absurdist take on solutions to flood-proof housing, and one that makes a very simple point: build higher.

Says the artist, “‘Foundation (9 Boxes)’ was inspired by dystopian films, absurd architectural concepts, and natural disaster prevention. It was around the time when the housing market crashed, and I was thinking a lot about modular housing units, and façades.”