Paul Hirzel projects home above river to evade flooding

Paul Hirzel lifts home above Idaho river to evade flooding and snakes

Idaho-based architect Paul Hirzel has completed a house raised high above the ground to avoid surging waters and snake infestations in the rural town of Juliaetta (+ slideshow).

Flood Plain House was designed for the owner of a local vineyard and winery and their guests, and is raised 12 feet (3.65 metres) above the land.

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The entire house is surrounded by a wooden deck, which rests on four eight-inch (20-centimetre) concrete piers that run perpendicular to the structure.

Proximity to the river, which often floods, and "a healthy population of rattlesnakes and bull snakes" led to this decision, said Hirzel.

Flood Plain House by Paul Hirzel

Guests enter at the eastern extremity of a long narrow volume that contains the guest bedroom, kitchen, and living and dining spaces.

This core is interrupted towards the middle by a screened porch that is accessed through the kitchen.

Flood Plain House by Paul Hirzel

An exterior deck surrounds this succession of spaces. At the western end of the house, a large unscreened deck provides views of the creek and landscape beyond.

Flood Plain House by Paul Hirzel

The master suite is contained in a separate area that branches off the main volume perpendicularly.

It features a walk-in closet and private bathroom, as well as a secondary deck that is only accessible from the bedroom.

Flood Plain House by Paul Hirzel

The house's structure is made up of two 12-foot-high (4.55 metres) Howe trusses, an uncommon beam system in which the diagonal members work in compression rather than in tension.

This composite system allows the house to span a length of 80 feet (24.4 metres) in its central portion, with cantilevers of 16 and 32 feet (five and 10 metres) at each end.

Flood Plain House by Paul Hirzel

The long cantilever supports the building's main deck which hangs above the river, while the shorter one leads to an outdoor parking area and is used as the primary access to the residence.

The galvanised steel frame allowed the house to be assembled from small parts, which was critical given the site's remote location. If need be, it can be easily deconstructed and moved elsewhere.

Flood Plain House by Paul Hirzel

The frame supports a wooden trellis above the house, which doubles as a rooftop deck. It is accessible via a spiral staircase at one end, and provides shading to the residence.

This shading strategy proved necessary due to the intense summer heat of Idaho, where the temperature frequently rises above 100 degrees fahrenheit (38 degrees centigrade).

Flood Plain House by Paul Hirzel

Metal siding – a mixture of aluminium and zinc – sheathes the entire structure.

In addition to reducing overheating in the house, the material "changes colour with varying sun/moon light conditions", according to the architect.

Flood Plain House by Paul Hirzel

Other houses that feature impressive structural overhangs include a concrete residence in Spain also made of two overlapping volumes and a cluster of wood and glass cabins hanging over the shores of Norway.

Flood Plain House by Paul Hirzel
Floor plan – click for larger image
Flood Plain House by Paul Hirzel
Cross section – click for larger image