10 Design's Sci-Fi-Worthy House Is Hurricane Proof

The Hong Kong–based firm proposes an entire neighborhood that burrows into the ground before a storm hits.

Last week, New York was rocked by both an earthquake and a hurricane—two exceptionally rare events for the city. Now if only our over-preparedness in the case of Hurricane Irene made up for the relative under-preparedness of other parts of world that are more prone to the forces of Mother Nature. Assuming that humans will continue to build in places they probably shouldn’t, Ted Givens, a design partner at 10 Design, has developed the notion of a tornado-proof suburb — clusters of sci-fi-looking houses that can respond to and withstand forceful wind gusts.

According to Givens, it’s time to stop downplaying the very real threat of natural disasters. "Isn’t The Wizard of Oz a clear example of the awesome force that a tornado can muster?" the Hong Kong–based architect writes. "How can Jaws drive people out of the ocean screaming when a house blown through the sky brings back nostalgic memories? Please stay out of the water, but feel free to building your home below flood level and out of cards in the wind." His answer is a house with a set of hydraulic levers that, when activated by high-velocity winds, pulls the house into the ground to safety. Once collapsed, the roof locks to make the structure both water and wind proof. The outer skin is composed of clear insulation sandwiched between two layers of Kevlar, providing a weather barrier that also lets in diffuse light.

Why burrow into the ground, rather than lift up out of harm’s way? Givens thinks that elevating the house fails to take into account the velocity of the water and the grinding power of debris. "The safest place," he maintains, "is down."

The whole neighborhood would be connected through sensor networks that interpret weather data. Acting like an organism, an entire suburb could be collapsed in seconds. 10 Design is currently developing a prototype with a group of ship builders in the United States and Africa. "The image of technology as a fire-breathing train slicing a trail of black smoke through the innocent forest painted by [Nathaniel] Hawthorne is slowly replaced by desire to respond to nature and not seek to dominate it," Givens writes. "The tornadoes and storms can burn and blow with all their fury while the suburb safely sleeps." And it won't feel like Kansas, either.

Add New Comment


  • Djryerson

    10 Design, your solution
    reminds me of the board big wave surfers use to ride waves in excess of 50'. They don't use the old
    Peruvian's hollow reed design from 3000 years ago, but ride highly
    specialized boards into some of the largest and most destructive ocean waves
    known in the world today. Some die trying, but a few

    Designing a home that not only survives the
    devastation, but reemerges unharmed from the aftermath makes sense here

    Nice board, guys.

  • Aal Imran

    Hi Ted, Interesting.

    Would be good to keep us posted with the progress below:

    "10 Design is currently developing a prototype with a group of ship builders in the United States and Africa." :)

  • RedLightDesign

    Hats off to tendesign for providing a kinetic solution to a kinetic problem. A storm whether it be a tornado or a hurricane is temporal. It comes only for a moment (especially in the case of a tornado), but it can yield great destructive power in a short period of time. So by designing a way for the house to move out of the storm's path (via the house slipping into it's "safe harbor" under the ground) it simply mimics what any land mammal would do in the same scenario: the house takes cover. It's such a simple concept, and tendesign has kept it simple with this "one armed up-and-down lever system." I imagine it could work the same way a mechanic's lift works and at about the same speed (as indicated by the above animation). But as an additional precaution, the designers have taken into account regular occurrences of strong winds and they have designed a building skin that works and responds to the house's daily environment - without  the house having to retreat into the ground at every renegade gust. This is intelligent kinetic architecture and in my opinion represents a thoughtful, creative, and sustainable design solution. The house becomes a "vessel" that can both weather the storm and get out of the storm's way, if needed. 

  • dferrante

    Designing for sustainability rather than commanding nature is really the important concept here.  We need to consider that the usage of sirens, levees and flood walls can't and won't always save lives when it comes to the forces of nature.  Sadly enough, this has been seen time and time again.  What tendesign has proposed is not merely a structure for Tornado and Hurricane protection, but more a concept for how to create a response oriented design.  

    Also, people living in the midwestern US cannot live in yachts, even most people on the east and west coasts can't.  If you look at what experts have said over the years, the best way to save your family from a storm is to "get out of the path".  This is exactly what was proposed, an automated system for getting out of the path of a storm. 

  • Quarry Bay

    Don't get me wrong. I have seen these renderings in tendesign website long before the hurricane. What was the concept before?

    Just for fun; How about living in the yacht instead. Bring it to the land with nice front/backyard. It's proven to be flood proof. And some yacht designs are much much better than this.

  • Mghamlouch

    Concepts are about paving the road for better solutions .
    “You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great”
    Contribute instead of just criticizing !!!!

  • guest

    Do you mean flood proof?
    It seems to be top heavy structure and is obviously bad for earthquake and hurricane. And the design....ugh, let us just say; not my cup of tea.

  • Ted

    Always like passionate comments:1) The streamlined shape is the first redundant system- house can easily withstand 150 mph plus winds if for some reason the house can’t collapse. The geometry is inspired by sailboats and keeps the structure lighter and stronger.
    2) Second redundant safety system is a pod on the lower right side of the image. If the water seals beaks residents can stay in the house or the second pod.
    3) The complexity is somewhere between a garage door, mechanic’s lift, and a surf board.  Mass production would keep the pricing close to that of a mobile home.
    4) You can’t live in fear.

  • Marichalmanuel

    Good job putting now your talent in  Co.Design. While keeping updated news and cutting edge design.

    Best of luck/MM

  • Guest - cranky older architect

    Another classic case of zoom-itecture masquerading as functional design. The arbitrarily streamlined shapes are completely non-functional outside of the rhetoric - since it pulls into its own rabbit warren when the big winds come, it's obviously not about using its forms to resist lateral loads. Speaking of lateral loads, before this thing pulls its head into its tortoise shell, at lower wind velocities it will be spinning about like a wind sock at an air show. Plus, the idea that this is somehow hurricane-proof is equally ignorant. Absent hugely expensive watertight seals on the openings this building absolutely will fill with water from overland flooding, making it a reverse submarine - all of the water will be inside the ship. The designer needs to take her or his considerable imaging skills and apply them to efforts that can inspire useful changes in life patterns, or switch to drawing covers for science fiction paperbacks.

  • Guest

    Beautiful concepts......but it is still much much cheaper to replace the damaged homes than build something this exotic.

  • Peter Wooding FIDSA, ASID

    Congratulations on stepping up, looking forward and designing some striking and innovative solutions to problems living on this earth.