Australian architects Rayne Fouche and Larissa Searle have won the R3build Design Competition for their concept of a scalable model for resilient single-family homes in coastal communities.
Launched on the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the Urban Green Council's thirdAnnual Design Competition aimed to reflect on the damage experienced by coastal communities around the world, focusing this year on the local community of Breezy Point, New York, which is still enduring the effects of Sandy’s devastation.
The competition tasked students and young professionals with designing a single-family home to withstand extreme weather events for areas most susceptible to increased storm intensity, frequency, and sea level rise.
Contest entrants were asked to consider the applicability of their designs to modular, prefabricated construction to take further advantage of time constraints in rebuilding efforts following natural disasters.
The top prize went to Fouche and Searle's innovative design, dubbed the Bayside Bunker. The project proposed two prefabricated pods connected by an internal garden, including a solar energy system, greywater recycling, and debris-proof windows.
Fouche explained that living on the east coast of Australia, which has its own extreme weather conditions including floods and coastal erosion, prepared them for the competition.
"We could, in many ways, relate to the geographic character of Breezy Point and the extreme weather conditions," he said.
While many of the homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy were the result of electrical fires caused by damaged overhead power lines and seawater coming into contact with electrical systems, the Bayside Bunker project proposes a new underground network to supply power to the house and to the entire Breezy Point neighbourhood.
A dune belt planted with native dune species is proposed for the foreshore to help to prevent erosion and flooding. A planting scheme for streetscapes and public spaces ensures medium and tall trees are planted far away from houses and other buildings, preventing damage from falling trees during major storm events and the spread of fire.
Inside the house, there are no habitable spaces on the ground floor, protecting people and their belongings from flood damage. The walls on the ground level are constructed from batten screening with more than 50 per cent permeability to allow stormwater to pass over the ground level easily.
The house has been developed to facilitate off-site construction for most of its parts. Indoor spaces are divided into four space efficient pods able to be trucked to site and then be craned into position. While the concrete exterior walls are prefabricated, a lightweight steel frame and concrete core forms the base for the indoor spaces and the central garden. The concrete central area braces the building and increases its structural rigidity and concrete walls and glass blocks add high performance against the spread of fire.
The windows and doors are either solid or have a solid operable panel that makes it possible to completely enclose the house during extreme weather conditions and also to provide window shading during the summer.
The solar energy system provides enough energy to meet the needs of the house. Producing around 636kWh per month, it is connected to the grid but also has a battery backup system capable of powering the house for five days in grey weather. The home was designed to use Energy Star rated high efficiency appliances and a complete LED lighting system in a bid to achieve a 40 per cent reduction on the average US household’s energy consumption.
The Urban Green Council partnered with the Breezy Point Green Committee (BPGC) for this competition, which tasked participants with establishing an exemplary model for a resilient home that could be used by families aiming to rebuild their homes in Breezy Point, as well as for future resilient communities.
The winning proposal fulfilled all of the R3build Competition’s objectives, representing the areas of resiliency, energy, environment and economy to be considered when rebuilding in a coastal community.