The Proven Value of Resilient Design

One of the most recognizable landmarks in Houston to suffer the effects of the record-setting floodwaters from then-tropical storm Harvey was the national award-winning Buffalo Bayou Park, which opened to the public less than two years ago. The park and its architecture had previously been published in national media outlets so Architect Magazine was interested in examining its survival and sharing lessons in success to create an opportunity in resilient design for the design community at large.

While floods were indeed expected due to the park’s location within a floodplain, no one anticipated three record-level floods in three years, with Harvey setting a new high water mark. Page Senior Principal and design architect Larry Speck told Architect Magazine editor Katie Gerfen a renewed focus on resilience and tighter building restrictions is a chance to turn hardship into an opportunity for the design community. His attitude is, “Can we exceed those rules?” [of designing to withstand predictable disasters].

Each time Buffalo Bayou Park has flooded, the damage was limited and Houstonians were using it again within days due to the thoughtful designs of Page, which served as architects of the built structures, and The SWA Group, the planners and landscape architects. Since the waterway for which the park is named functions as a major drainage route for storm water en route to the Gulf of Mexico, the structures were sited above the flood plain, with the exception of the lower level of the Lost Lake Building, which was designed to take on water.

Concrete piers elevate the primary programmed spaces of the Lost Lake Building out of the flood plain while also providing extraordinary resistance to the horizontal forces that come from rushing water, floating tree trunks and other debris that assault buildings during a flood. The lower level is used for boat storage – polyethylene watercraft such as kayaks that only need hosing off afterward.

To read the Architect Magazine article by Katie Gerfen, click here