Project DescriptionFROM THE ARCHITECTS:
The new Ocosta Elementary School offers safe haven from natural disaster for those who live, work and visit the beachfront region of Grays Harbor County. The recent replacement of a former school building also provides the community with a vertical tsunami shelter – the first known in the United States.
Due to City of Westport’s location upon a highly vulnerable peninsula of land, an offshore quake would allow merely 20-30 minutes evacuation time prior to the arrival of a tsunami. Along with local residents from Grayland and other nearby communities, District students - who attend elementary, middle and high school on one campus - now have a safe and elevated place to assemble during an emergency. The new raised shelter sits 53 feet above sea level, high atop the roof over the elementary school’s commons and gymnasium. The large open platform, accessible via four flanking stair towers and enclosed in concrete, is designed to hold 1,000 individuals. While the majority of the school is constructed to meet standard building code regulations, this zone of the building is fortified to withstand a 9.2 magnitude quake, along with the damaging after effects of incoming waves. With a steel-framed structure clad in concrete masonry and coated metal wall panels, the building’s palette of materials provides resistance to its harsh coastal environment.
Inside, the school contains 23 classrooms, a library, food service kitchen, administration office, and other support spaces, while utilizing an adjacent 1980’s-era building as an efficient means of capturing existing square footage. Its interior design incorporates large-scale, local, historic photographs, vibrant floor patterns and paint colors, and display areas to showcase local art. Integration of these elements were encouraged by the District’s Superintendent as a means of saying “thank you” to the taxpayers who passed the bond for this valuable, shared amenity.
Since its completion, numerous television news agencies and magazine publications have featured this unique project and its ambitious undertaking by members of the Ocosta School District. Professionals involved in the planning and design are eager to share knowledge gained through the process, while conveying the sense of urgency behind constructing additional shelters along the Pacific Ocean’s coastline.