The designers of a Starbucks in Houston just off Brays Bayou, right in the floodplain, said they chose a watertight design instead of lifting it out of the floodplain – a gamble not many Houstonians say they would take.
Completed in 2016, however, it stood up to Harvey admirably.
An article in Texas Architect Magazine looks at how the coffee house survived the flood:
Officials at Bellaire-based architecture firm Boucher Design Group said they first considered plans to lift the building out of the floodplain, using things like stilts, as other buildings and homes located within a floodplain often do to avoid the wet threat.
They said they ultimately rejected the plans as too expensive and too awkward for customers in the end.
Of course, mindful of its proximity to the Bayou, they knew something had to be done:
“We’ve had three years in a row where we’ve had 500-year flood events: Memorial Day flood 2015, Tax Day 2016, and Hurricane Harvey 2017,” Garrett DeLano, an architect with Boucher Design Group, said in an interview. “I grew up in Southeast Texas. In Ike, 90 percent of my hometown was destroyed.”
Enter 21st century technology applications, with the now-completed architectural feat reportedly achieving watertightness through multi-layered construction, according to Texas Architect.
Constructionists said they used a special membrane wrapped around the building’s exterior multiple times, as well as an exterior constructed of CMU block walls standing almost three-feet above grade.
A final layer of tile and brick attached to the waterproof membrane by self-sealing fasteners allowed the building to have the ‘Starbucks look.’
The building also reportedly utilized waterproofs doors-at $10,000 a piece – with one door to the outside and two to the bathrooms.
It sacrificed an interior space for customers to sit, opting for exterior patio seating instead, and the decision potentially paid for itself after Harvey, when the store didn’t need to file a claim for flood damage:
The only water in the building was a small amount in the bathrooms.
Though, after Harvey, anyone would tell you it probably still isn’t a good idea to build in the floodplain, designs like this one could help protect businesses in Houston from future flooding, keeping out more of the water until the floods subside.