Machine Design

Building a tsunami-resistant house

An engineering team from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology leveraged high-tech engineering principles into a low-tech house for people living in tsunami-prone areas, such as Sri Lanka.

The new houses should cost about $1,200 and be made of local materials. Houses will consist of four columns, each a meter square, made of concrete and rebar. Walls of bamboo or wood stretch between the columns. Tests show the design should withstand five times the wind and water force than traditional concrete-block homes in Sri Lanka. The one or two-bedroom houses, about 400 ft2, will sit on concrete blocks or wood frames 1 to 2 ft above the ground. This lets high waters flow beneath the house.

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