Architecture

H2Ouston Design Tour Spotlights Flood-Smart Structures

The home at 608B Stanford, near KHOU 11 and the bayou, is raised up higher than its neighbors.
The home at 608B Stanford, near KHOU 11 and the bayou, is raised up higher than its neighbors. Photo by Paul Hester
click to enlarge The home at 608B Stanford, near KHOU 11 and the bayou, is raised up higher than its neighbors. - PHOTO BY PAUL HESTER
The home at 608B Stanford, near KHOU 11 and the bayou, is raised up higher than its neighbors.
Photo by Paul Hester
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.

click to enlarge This home at 5231 Braesvalley Drive has survived flooding and maintains original finishes from 1965. - PHOTO BY PAUL HESTER
This home at 5231 Braesvalley Drive has survived flooding and maintains original finishes from 1965.
Photo by Paul Hester
"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."


click to enlarge The home at 3811 Linkwood is raised up with vents at its base. In the event of a flood, water goes in and flows right back out. - PHOTO BY PAUL HESTER
The home at 3811 Linkwood is raised up with vents at its base. In the event of a flood, water goes in and flows right back out.
Photo by Paul Hester
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.

click to enlarge The original Sunset Coffee building at Allen's Landing (1019 Commerce) has been restored and now serves as home to Buffalo Bayou Partnership, with plans for a future cafe. - PHOTO BY PAUL HESTER
The original Sunset Coffee building at Allen's Landing (1019 Commerce) has been restored and now serves as home to Buffalo Bayou Partnership, with plans for a future cafe.
Photo by Paul Hester
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

Tours will be held March 25 and 26, from 1 to 6 p.m. For information, call 713-348-4876 or visit ricedesignalliance.org or signup.rice.edu/2017rdatour. $15 to $35.
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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney