9 Design Strategies for Coastal Architecture

Living in a home at the waterfront to enjoy the scenic landscape that it brings daily into the homes is like a dream for many. A coast offers rejuvenating views, fresh mornings, calm minds, and always a relaxed vibe around.

Communities situated in close proximity to the coasts often sense the calm, serenity, and beauty that exists close to the water. But every coin has two sides, with advantages following the disadvantages suggesting the unpredictable nature of water.


Coastal projects are one of the most challenging construction projects to work or rework on. The coastal environments are well-known for regularly experiencing coastal hazards due to stormy weather and other architectural difficulties causing various issues due to reasons such as,

  • High winds
  • Constant humidity
  • Wind-driven rain
  • Occasional floods
  • Sandy soil to build on
  • Harsh frontage experiences
  • Fluctuating tides
  • Severe erosion.
  • Salts due to the seafront

However, this isn’t the finish to coastal architecture.  A good amount of scope persists and a chance to thrive and house varied pieces of architecture across the globe and in India which can be achieved through the application of restorative, creative solutions that give the structures the ability to withstand harsh external climatic conditions and retain the elegance and beauty of the coast.

Architectural Solutions for Coastal Architecture

  1. Selecting appropriate building material
  2. Efficient construction techniques
  3. Sliding Window System
  4. Doors and Windows
  5. Pile or Pier foundation system
  6. Walls to fight waves
  7. Mangroves
  8. Corrosion protection
  9. Mitigate water damage

1. Selecting appropriate Building material

Buildings near the coast should incorporate materials having high durability. This is because the structure would be exposed to different elements as compared to those in non-coastal areas and also storms and harsh winds. In India, the combination of sand, moisture, and saline water creates wear and tear on the strongest of building materials. Ease of installation or the ability to properly install should be major considerations for the selection of material.

When choosing a material one should consider the following

  1. Wind resistance
  2. uPVC
  3. Hardware Durability
Wind Resistance

Most of the building materials have limited wind resistance due to various reasons such as inadequate design, application, material deterioration or roof system abuse. Wind with sufficient speed can cause damage to weak buildings which can cause major damages which is why windows should be wind resistant that can withstand higher wind pressure. The windstorm bar system can be used as additional support to give further rigidity to the frames.


uPVC stands for unplasticized polyvinyl Chloride. Combination of salt, humidity and wind can eat away all unprepared materials. uPVC is usually the best framing material to use in marine environments over more traditional materials such as wood, aluminium or timber due to its more durable nature and ease of care.

Hardware durability

Use of good quality hardware is very necessary when building near the coast, salts from the water can cause easy corrosion of the metal fixtures. But with better quality one can give the final touch to the interiors and  the windows will also be more effective in executing their purpose. Even though hard to see, Hardware makes a difference which can be felt in the long run.

List of materials that can be used for coastal architecture

  1. Corrosion Resistance Steel (CRS) TMT bars
  2. Ground granulated blast-furnace slag
  3. Kryton's crystalline technology
  4. ShaliSeal RSTC
  5. Talrak
  6. Cera Cote Protecto series
  7. COLORBOND Ultra steel
  8. Concrete
  9. AIS Ecosense
  10. Treated wood

2. Construction techniques

Construction methods in coastal environments should be resistant to flood and wind damage, wind-driven rain, corrosion, moisture, and decay due to sunlight, aging, insects, chemicals, temperature or other factors. Unlike structures built inland, structures that are exposed to saltwater environments will have adverse effects on the buildings over time because salt crystallization can form in stone walls and rust elements made of metal. Hence properties built in coastal regions should be constructed using durable materials that can withstand the effects of the surrounding environment

3. Sliding window system

Right windows should be chosen for coastal areas such as sliding window systems over openable windows. Openable windows bang on the wall from high wind pressure whereas sliding windows have a smooth operation. They are also designed for strength and larger glass exposure which won't interrupt the scenic view the waterfront has to offer.

4. Doors and windows

Air in the coastal climate contains high traces of moisture which makes it susceptible to corrosion or rust. uPVC windows and doors can fight corrosion easily in comparison to other materials. Weather erosion and discoloration are unlikely to ruin such doors and windows while it can also withstand high altitude winds, torrential rains and storms. uPVC windows remain new and glossy and are durable as they are mostly saline-proof.

5. Type of foundation

Building a home on the coast is more tricky than building on normal soil. A pile or pier foundation is the most preferable in coastal scenarios. Open foundations present minimum obstruction for rising waters. Columns, piers, or piles can be used to elevate the property above a certain level above sea level. Closed foundations are built of continuous foundation walls and are usually made of concrete and wood. Which is more vulnerable to wear than open foundations due to the choice of material in contact with the water. Hence open foundations are recommended when the waters are expected to reach the built structure.

6. Walls to fight waves

India has responded to this challenge by building hard engineering structures such as walls or bunds along the coastline even though it is considered a short-term solution. It also might redirect the waves and cause another area along the coast to erode as the sand below shifts, the wall sinks.

7. Mangroves

They are a way to reduce wind speeds and the swell of waves which help to bind the sand together and stop erosion from taking place. Though this might take time as the process includes planting grass, shrubs, herbs and trees which may take up to 5-10 years it is still considered effective.

8. Corrosion Protection

Unfortunately, no building material offers 100% corrosion protection but using the right grade of steel can be a starting point for corrosion protection. Coastal structures can use 316-grade stainless steel which has an alloy addition of molybdenum that makes it “marine grade”.

9. Mitigate Water Damage

With Proper Cladding, Paint, and Roofing structural damage by water can be minimized. Choosing the proper materials for cladding, paint, and roofing such as Colorbond Ultra Steel or Stainless Steel products for the roof, walls, downpipes, fascia, and gutters will provide ultimate protection.

Kovalam Beach Resort by Charles Correa: Open to sky space Approach.

Things to Remember

  1. Regular maintenance is required to preserve the good looks and high performance as it’s a guarantee that the materials used during the construction will preserve their performance.
  2. Habitable floor levels should be built as high as possible which can be done by raising the entire property on a timber support structure that will provide resistance from the water flow.
  3. Air conditioning and hot water systems should be installed higher to prevent damage in case of flooding.
  4. For flooring, opting for tiles instead of carpeting is preferable as tiles are water-resistant, durable, and a lot easier to clean in the event of a flood.
9 Design Strategies for Coastal Architecture