Tsunami Preparedness Constructions
Research | Design
2012 | International Competition

Higher Ground

Higher Ground is a tsunami and flood emergency evacuation concept based in based in simplicity and ease – ease of implementation, reversibility, and simple comfort in the knowledge of its existence. It is both a primitive landform and a reaction to an emergency – as in a flood or tsunami, living things instinctively move to higher ground. The landforms can be placed where needed, rapidly, without the long wait for government agency approval, as in the case of built shelters. They require no assistance from experts and can be made in a matter of days by landowners, communities and volunteers with tractors at their disposal, at nearly no cost. Once made, the landforms become a part of the environment and can still be used for agriculture and development.

Perhaps the most sustainable tsunami emergency escape solution available, the landforms are made of soil from surrounding land, excavated earth from building projects and even from non-hazardous debris left by the tsunami. Strategically dispersed across the landscape, the man-made hills aggregate in areas with higher rural populations (rural areas are the most susceptible as they have fewer buildings which can withstand the forces of such disasters.) The distance between them is determined by their proximity to population density and that population's speed of accessibility in times of emergency – this distance (and time) increasing as they move inland. In the areas hardest hit by the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, the average height of the water level traveling inland was over 6m, with the highest measured at over 9.3m, therefore; the landforms will be needed in those tsunami-prone areas up to 10m above sea level, that do not have easy access to higher elevations or places of refuge. The height of all landforms will also maintain a similar datum of 10m above sea-level. Hence, as the elevation of the countryside gradually increases, the landforms will gradually disappear.

Beyond shelter, Higher Ground is a collective, nation-wide memorial to those who lost their lives in the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. Hundreds of these landforms could reform the coasts of the nation – marking the lasting change to the landscape, memory and identity of Japan.