Engaged Learning

USF Architects’ House Withstands Hurricanes

by Kathleen de Lara, Office of Marketing Communications

Two University of San Francisco architecture professors recently won national and state awards for their design of a flood-proof house that was built to withstand hurricanes and tsunamis.

Designed by Matt Peek and Renata Ancona, adjunct professors of art + architecture, the house in Stinson Beach, about 45 minutes north of San Francisco, won the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s best practice award and a 2011 American Institute of Architects, California Council merit award for small projects. The awards come on the heels of Hurricane Irene that swamped the East Coast in August and a tsunami in Japan, caused by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, that swept away entire cities last March — just the kind of storms the flood-proof house was built to resist, Peek said. 

“The Japanese tsunami occurred just one year after the flood-proof home’s construction and demonstrated how high-strength buildings, typically commercial, resisted the flood waters while under-designed structures succumbed to the flooding,” Peek said.

Many of the design techniques and technologies used in the Stinson Beach house have found their way into Peek and Ancona’s curriculum, particularly the classes on building technology. “That is the students’ first course on building technology at an undergraduate level, so it is designed to help them think outside the box and form a strong creative foundation,” Peek said.

For the Stinson Beach house, Peek and Ancona added on to an existing mid-century beach house located in a designated flood zone, constructing an attached master bedroom, bathroom, and four balconies on concrete stilts. The stilts connect below ground to individual concrete foundations. The addition’s frame is made of steel. The flood-proof house was built to resist tsunami-force waves up to 12 feet high and stands as a much-needed model for future flood-proof house designs, Peek said.

The house design also incorporates sustainable elements throughout, including drought-tolerant landscaping, cedar walls, and bamboo flooring — components that helped it achieve the highest sustainable design certification, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum, from Marin County’s green building program. 

Know someone with a powerful USF story? Let us know! usfnews@usfca.edu