Coastal Home Design & Construction

Building in a Flood Zone

Building Within A Flood Zone

This project was a complete teardown/rebuild located directly across from Falmouth’s Surf Drive Beach and facing Vineyard Sound. With its many balconies and large windows, each room provides unobstructed sight-lines with breathtaking views of Martha’s Vineyard and nearby Nobska Light.

Surf Drive is within a designated FEMA Flood Hazard area, which is at a high risk of damaging winds and flooding due to storm surge. To reduce flood insurance costs, this homeowner opted for a raised pier and beam foundation common for homes built in areas prone to earthquakes or hurricane-strength winds.

A pier and beam foundation features concrete piers set deep into the ground. A pier and beam foundation does not rest directly on the ground. Instead, it is elevated about 18” above, with utility units for plumbing and electricity installed in this crawlspace.

Building a home with direct exposure to the open ocean requires the use of materials that tolerate or repel the corrosive effects of saltwater, salt air, gusts of wind, harsh UV rays and a persistent moist environment that quickly breaks down many typical building materials causing mold, corrosion, and decay.

For this home, we used double-coated, pre-stained shingles which offer UV protection, are water repellant and mildew resistant. Additional material choices for this home included vinyl windows and composite decking.

We also used a new structural “zip” wall panel system that provides a built-in energy-efficient barrier to keep moisture out by reducing air leakage that can cause moisture damage. These green-colored wall panels create a draft proof system with a perm rating similar to conventional sheathing covered with house wrap.

Article: All the Right Angles All the Right Angles Reprinted from AtHome Magazine May 2019 By Dan Mathers

For three decades, Herb Foster’s house on Cape Cod was an oasis. While he lived and worked in Boston, on summers and weekends, he would escape to his property on Surf Drive in Falmouth. There, his small, 932-square-foot house was in an ideal location, across the street from a beautiful beach with breathtaking views of Vineyard Sound. It was a perfect place to watch his children grow and share summer gatherings with friends.

After retiring, he made the Falmouth house his primary home. His family grew with the addition of four grandchildren, and so did his number of friends. But a larger family and more friends came at a cost. His Cape house was no longer big enough. He didn’t have enough room for his family all to stay. Gatherings had become cramped. He needed a new place.

Moving wasn’t an option; he couldn’t beat his current location. So Foster decided to tear down his old house and build new. The result is an imaginative, three-level home with an innovative design that provides spectacular views, a spacious, open layout, and several places for gathering with friends and family.

It’s a design that also won the house, and its builder Longfellow Design Build a BRICC Award for Excellence in New Single Family Home Design and Construction.

Foster’s new three-level home is set at an angle to give it an interesting curb appeal and to maximize views from the house. Its interior layout is open and airy with lots of windows and large sliding doors that allow for plenty of sunshine and fresh air. It seamlessly blends outdoor elements with indoor comforts.

The home’s design was very much a collaboration between Foster and Longfellow. When he decided to build the new house, Foster knew he wanted the home at an angle, that he wanted plenty of balconies, a two-car garage, and a lot more space. But there were obstacles to overcome, not the least of which is his property along the shore is in a designated Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Hazard area at risk of damaging winds and flooding.

One of Foster’s friends suggested he use Longfellow. He said they had lots of experience with special permitting. Foster met with Longfellow owner Mark Bogosian to discuss his vision. After their meeting, Bogosian said he knew exactly what Foster was looking for and would draw up plans. “I came back the next week, and there it was on paper. They had taken it to another level,” said Foster. “They exceeded my expectations.”

The result is a house that is as much an experience – and a celebration of living on Cape Cod – as it is a home. To address the FEMA issues, Longfellow used a raised pier and beam foundation. Concrete piers were set deep, with the piers elevating the home’s foundation about 18 inches above the ground. Given the home’s exposure to the ocean, they used materials made to tolerate or repel the corrosive effects of salt water, salt air, strong winds, UV rays and moisture. Double-coated, pre-stained shingles provide UV protection, plus they are water repellant and mildew resistant. Additionally, the builders used vinyl windows and composite decking. Longfellow also used a new structural “zip” wall panel system, providing a built-in energy-efficient barrier to keep moisture out.

With three levels, Foster says the new 3,241-square-foot house provides enough room for him and his wife, plus his two daughters and their families to all stay at the house simultaneously. It has four bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms.

The first thing you notice when looking at the house is its many balconies—five in all, each with wire cable railings that give them a nautical feel. The main deck off the home’s middle level is right outside the kitchen and living area. It looks out to provide clear views of the beach and Vineyard Sound. A spiral staircase winds from the front yard up to the main deck. The attractive staircase was kind of a happy accident. It wasn’t in the original plans, but local officials required Foster to have stairs leading from the deck down to the yard.

“It really fits in very well with the design,” says Foster. From the main deck, you can enter the house through large sliding doors that lead into the living room and kitchen. On warm days, the sliders stay open to invite a refreshing breeze and the smell of salt air into the house.

The outdoor elements don’t end there. To decorate the interior, Foster chose a pallet of Cape colors, with pastel blues, yellows, and sea-mist greens. Coffered ceilings in the kitchen and living area have their inserts painted blue. “It’s like bringing the sky inside the house,” says Foster.

The kitchen features an open floor plan, making it easy to host plenty of guests. It has a large island and a separate dining area, allowing for plenty of seating during meals. Large windows let in lots of natural light. It has Cambria Britannica quartz countertops and custom cabinets built by Longfellow. White barn doors on sliders are widely used throughout the house to close off rooms for privacy or to allow them to be open and seamlessly flow into adjoining rooms.

The house has two master suites, one on the second floor and one on the third. Each has its own balcony that provides lovely sunset views at the end of each day. Another bedroom features two custom-built bunk beds, perfect for Foster’s grandchildren. A guest bedroom features another balcony, this one looking east and providing beautiful views of the sunrise—a great spot to have a cup of coffee in the morning—while a small fifth balcony extends off a living area on the third floor.

On the street level, just outside of his two-car garage, Foster had roughly 700 square feet of covered space that he has enclosed in lattice and upon which he has set up a table, chairs, and a grill. It’s a great place for when people want to get out of the sun, escape a fast-moving rain shower, or take a lunch break before heading back to the beach. Foster is also converting an area that was originally designed as a storage room into a second kitchen.

“We do three or four big parties every year,” says Foster. “Especially on road race day. We have a big contingency and we do it up right.” The house is a gathering place for the neighborhood. Foster says many of his neighbors have lived in the area longer than he has, and for years they have enjoyed getting together at his home. It’s something everyone seems to enjoy even more now that there’s more room and it’s more comfortable. It has Foster excited to plan for many more gatherings with friends and family in the summers to come.

PRISM Awards Logo


  • Architect: Longfellow Design Build

  • Builder: Longfellow Design Build

  • Falmouth, MA

  • 5,373 sqft
  • 4 beds 4.5 baths
  • Date Completed: 2017


  • Engineering
    Cape & Islands Engineering


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