Memorial Day flooding. Tax Day flooding. The question isn't whether we'll have another deluge, it's when. While city engineers scramble to outsmart Mother Nature with bigger retention ponds and shored-up dams, Houstonians keep getting knocked down for the count. Enough is enough, and it's time to fight back.
The newest, smartest trend in residential and business construction is to assume that flooding will occur and find a way to survive these events. Resilience is the new buzzword, and architects are getting creative in dealing with the physical, political, and economic challenges of living in a floodplain.
For its 42nd annual Rice Design Alliance Architectural Tour, which always has a theme (we liked small houses and edible gardens), this year's H2Ouston showcases some of the very smart architecture already in place in the Bayou City.
"Residences range from homes built in the 1960s all the way to one completed this year," says Angie Chen, RDA's assistant director of programs. "For example, the Braesvalley home built in 1965: She incurred flooding during the Tax Day flood but because of smart selection of flooring by the original architects, putting it back was not an issue. That particular house is on the historical preservation list. All the finishes are original to 1965 even though it has been flooded."
Other homes incorporate commercial applications. "The 3811 Linkwood Drive house, built in the Linkwood Brays Bayou area, is flood-prone though that particular location has not been flooded. In anticipation, because it is in the 100-year flood plain, the house was raised; the base is vented. Water goes in and flows out," says Chen.
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One of the most fascinating commercial applications of resilience is in the original Sunset Coffee building at Allen's Landing. Built in 1910 and well within the floodway of Buffalo Bayou, it was completely gutted and stripped down to its concrete structure before restoration.
"The building itself has been extensively renovated inside and out and landscaped in order to accommodate the fact that it will be flooded," says Chen. "The first floor serves as canoe storage. It's floodproof. If water goes in it goes right back out. The second floor belongs to Buffalo Bayou Partnership." Plans are in the works for a future cafe, and the rooftop garden serves as a venue for events.
Each ticket provides access to all six buildings:
Sunset Coffee building, c. 1910, 1019 Commerce
5715 Logan Lane, 1995
823 Shirkmere, 2017
5231 Braesvalley Drive, 1965
3811 Linkwood, 2016
608B Stanford, 2007