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Safe(R) House


The Harvard Graduate School of Design in collaboration with the SENSEable City Laboratory at MIT began a project to investigate the development of technological strategies that could allow families to return and guarantee future safety at a lower cost. Guided by high-tech modeling systems, the team developed Safe(R) House, a dwelling designed to resist the force of a tsunami as well as flooding. The designers emphasized the use of locally available materials and building methods to make the house both cost effective and easy to replicate.


In the weeks after the tsunami disaster of December 2004, affected countries began to announce regulations on where to build and implement plans to resettle people away from the coastline. These rules ranged from 100m to 400m from the coastline and over the first six months these policies quickly became interperated differently by local and regional bodies leading to confusion. Given the social, cultural and economic upheaval these rules created, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology began a project to investigate the development of the technological strategies that could guarantee future safety at a lower cost. A design team from Harvard set themselves a task of creating a permanent dwelling that would resist flooding or a potential tsunami. Additionally they wanted to use the same technology and materials so that locals could build and replicate the unit.


The house is made up of four main elements; a raised platform to facilitate water drainage, concrete core structures that provide higher resistance without blocking the flow of water in case of incoming tsunami, bamboo or traditional woven partitions to create a porous or ventilated skin and a traditional roof structure made from coconut wood rafters and either tin roofing materials or tiles. The housing design was tested through structural modeling and analysis by London-based engineers Buro Happold. The major test was to find deformations caused by pressure on the walls. By creating a series of smaller core blocks the scheme was found to be five times more resistant than that of traditional structures. The team has also used this system to create a series of options for community buildings that can be expanded from a basic house. Alternatively through different configurations, core units can create a free-standing unit that can be built for larger public meetings and events.




Project Details

NAME: Safe(R) House
LOCATION: Dodanduwa
START DATE: May 05, 2005
CURRENT PHASE: Construction complete
COST: $1500 USD (Final)
SIZE: 400 sq. ft
PROJECT TYPE: Residential - Single Family
FUNDING: Prajnopaya Foundation, Architecture for Humanity