Everyone from dog trainers to engineers of hydroelectric dams will tell you to work with nature, not against it. So in his bid to design a tsunami-resistant house, Dan Nelson and his team at Designs Northwest Architects figured if they couldn't build a house to withstand tsunami waves, they'd come up with one that let the waves pass through it. Their 30-foot Tsunami House, situated on the waterfront of Puget Sound, is designed to remain structurally intact even when hit by eight-foot waves.
How they did this was to raise the house nine feet on concrete-encased, steel-frame-reinforced pillars. But the ground floor is still livable, to a degree: Every fixture and piece of furniture on the first level is waterproof, and there are no electrical outlets down here, just ceiling-mounted lights. The outer walls consist of large, garage-door-style glass walls that are designed to break away under the force of a wave, rather than provide resistance that could be transmitted to the structure.
"If the building was a solid wall instead of columns filled in with glass doors, the whole thing could collapse under the momentum of the wave," Nelson told Smithsonian Magazine. "We opted to enable the building to stay intact by letting the water move through along a path of least resistance."
One thing occurs to us: Having breakaway walls might be good for the house, but might not be so good for objects outside the house that are going to have a glass garage door slam into them. But we suppose one could argue that in a tsunami, debris of that size would only be a drop in the bucket, if you'll pardon the pun.