FALL 2018

In 1900, thousands lost their lives in Galveston Island in the worst American tragedy in history. The fatal ramifications of storm surge, otherwise known as flooding caused by a hurricane, decimated nearly all life on the barrier island which to this day, is still in recovery. 

This project aims to situate itself within this sensitive context and respond in the name of resiliency; to become a model for the future of coastal architecture as sea level continues to rise, and storms continue to worsen.  The building design strives to not only create spaces where the community can come together and interact, but also serve as an emergency shelter in the wake of future hurricanes. 

Today, Seawall Boulevard is plagued with “disposable architecture”, built inexpensively, with the expectation that it will be destroyed during the next big storm.  This project aims to change the mindset of resilient, adaptable, and effective architecture.  Hurricane landfall, though catastrophic, only occurs a few days out of the year.  This eco-hotel embraces multiple dual-purpose systems (curtain wall, water shedding, bioswales, ventilation) that strive to be effective not only when a hurricane hits, but also on the majority of days with typical climate patterns.

Every square foot of the site has been designed to channel storm water, from the high southern crest to the lower northern end of the site, approximately a 12 feet elevation difference. 100% of the water introduced to the site is channeled by a roof catchment system and a fully permeable parking lot, filtered through a series of bioswales, and finally treated within a softscape vegetative retention pool. The parking lot is materially composed of pervious concrete drive-aisles and grasscrete parking spaces, vacating any collected runoff water into the bioswale system.

The construction of the coastal seawall has severed the connection between the island and its coastal ecological systems, preventing the formation of natural estuaries where native flora and fauna prosper. The site design carefully considers the native vegetation, integrating these biological components into a stepped bioswale filtration system and softscape retention pools. The goal of this strategy is to reintroduce the formerly present bio life lost 118 years ago, and begin to reclaim the biological identity of Galveston Islan

Although after The 1900 Storm Galveston lost its respect and size as a port city, Houston took the role of the largest port city in the southern United States.  Because of this, the quick availability to the port results in a large amount of building material manufacturers to produce their products near Houston.  This allows for the building to be constructed with manufactured  materials that are locally sourced, most of them being available within a 100 mile radius.

The curtain wall applies the concept of a hurricane shutter system by means of a sliding double track that allows each panel to move horizontally, back and forth to create a total of eight different configurations of daylighting per hotel room; each room having access to four panels.  Each panel consists of evenly spaced slats that cover 50% of the panel; two panels together equal 100% coverage.  On a regular day the curtain wall allows for complete occupant control of daylighting and heat gain, while in the event of a hurricane the panels can shut down the building facade, covering all exposed room glazing to protect the occupants inside.

Before a curtain wall system was designed to aid in lowering solar heat gain, the most effective grouped hotel room organization was selected through a schematic exercise using various glazing to wall ratios through Sefaira simulations.  The selected 50% glazing to 50% wall ratio with an overhang-effect allows for adequate views to the ocean while taking advantage of optimal building orientation.  Any direct sunlight that causes solar heat gain can secondarily be controlled by use of the operable curtain wall design.


Based on the Architecture 2030 Challenge, a project goal was set to design a building that could utilize as little energy as possible through optimal uses of daylighting and ventilation before consideration of a photovoltaic system.  Sefaira software was used to create iterations of energy simulations to discover the most effective configurations of the curtain wall during winter versus summer months.  Information was gathered that could then be used to visually educate workers and guests on optimal curtain wall configurations based on daily climate conditions for occupant comfort.  With well-informed occupants, the building is able to respond through a team effort that ultimately reduces annual building energy consumption.