3 Designs Made to Combat Disaster


Three unique dwellings designed to help survivors of natural disasters feel safe again in New York City, New Orleans and Joplin, MO, have won top honors in a rebuilding design competition.

Features of the winning designs—Resilient House, Shotgun [remix], and CORE House—include highly insulated building enclosure systems, flood-proof foundations, elevated floors, and walls anchored with carbon-neutral concrete masonry units.

“Designing Recovery” was an ideas-based competition created to aid in the rebuilding of sustainable and resilient communities, according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), which sponsored the competition with partners Make It Right, St. Bernard Project, Architecture for Humanity and Dow Building Solutions.

The winners, chosen from 25 entries, were announced Oct. 3 (Thursday).

In addition, all of the entries that are feasible to build "will go into production in the corresponding communities," AIA announced.

Safe and Livable

“When examining all of the designs submitted, we continually asked ourselves if this would be a house we would want to live in, regardless of safety considerations,” said Jury Chair Michael Willis, FAIA, NOMA. 

“The three designs that we chose all had the ideal combination of addressing disaster mitigation and actual livability,” he said.

Willis noted that each design had the flexibility to act as a safe haven during disaster, while serving as a comfortable space for family conditions.

The designs also fit into the appropriate neighborhood style without projecting a “bunker-like” feeling, he said.

Top Designs

AIA’s descriptions of the winning designs are as follow.

Designed by Toronto-based Sustainable.TO Architecture + Building, the Resilient House for New York City features a layout that positions living spaces towards the sun and minimizes interior partitions. 

Structurally insulated panels allow for a tightly sealed and highly insulated building enclosure. Combined with a highly efficient ventilation system and upgraded windows, these design elements project to a 30 percent reduction in annual energy consumption. 

Resilient House
Sustainable. TO Architecture + Building

Resilient House, designed to be constructed above the floodplain in New York City, can be built for less than $50,000 in material cost.

The house will be built above the floodplain with a flood-proof foundation. Resilient House can be constructed for less than $50,000 in material costs by using traditional construction methods and equipment.

Designed by GOATstudio LLP, the Shotgun [remix] proposal for New Orleans offers a fresh, contemporary take on a familiar local typology. 

Shotgun [remix]
GOATstudio LLP

Shotgun [remix],  proposed for New Orleans, features a safe twist on the historic shotgun form.

The design updates the historic shotgun form to better accommodate modern lifestyles and increased environmental challenges.

Shotgun [remix] incorporates sliding polycarbonate privacy panels; vaulted interior spaces; clean, modern detailing; an open floor plan; and a steel roof that turns and wraps the southern exterior wall for additional sun protection.  

To help manage the threat from rising sea levels and increasing yearly rainfall, the finish floor will be elevated seven feet above the ground plane and filter storm runoff through a perimeter rain garden, alleviating on-site ponding and reducing the load on strained city infrastructure.  

By employing similar construction methodologies and materials as those that have been vetted by the Make It Right organization since 2007, the design will be able to achieve LEED Platinum status and provide 6.25 kWh of solar energy to the owners.

Designed by Q4 ArchitectsCORE House in Joplin, MO is designed to address the local vernacular by combining two single-cell homes.  A centrally located "Safe House" acts as the hearth and divides a "Perimeter House."

CORE House
Q4 Architects

CORE House features a safe house inside a perimeter house.

The Safe House contains all of the functions of home that are necessary for a family to recover quickly from disaster and live for an extended period of time until rebuilding is possible. The walls of the Safe House are constructed of filled and anchored carbon-neutral concrete masonry units.

Rainwater is collected, stored, and filtered for reuse. Locally sourced building materials were consciously considered so that CORE House will have little impact on the progression of climate change, reduce the effects of debris in a natural disaster, and elevate local economies.


Tagged categories: American Institute of Architects (AIA); Architecture; Awards and honors; Building Envelope; Building envelope; Design; Designers; Disasters; Health and safety; Sustainability

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