The new Ocosta Elementary School provides the first vertical tsunami shelter in the United States.

The replacement of Ocosta Elementary School offers refuge to Grays Harbor County in the event of a disaster.  Due to the location of the community, upon a highly vulnerable peninsula of land, an offshore quake would only allow residents 20-30 minutes evacuation time prior to the arrival of a tsunami.

To address this need for a community safe haven, TCF designed the nation’s first Vertical Evacuation Center. At fifty-three feet above sea level, a rooftop evacuation platform sits high above the school commons and gymnasium. It is accessible via four flanking stair towers enclosed in concrete, and designed to hold 1,000 people. While the majority of the facility is constructed to meet standard building code regulations, this portion of the building is fortified to withstand a 9.2 magnitude quake, along with potential damaging after-effects of incoming waves.

The steel-framed structure is clad in concrete masonry and metal wall panels, part of a material palette resistant to the harsh coastal environment. Inside, it contains 23 classrooms, a library, food service kitchen, administration office, and other support spaces. This new construction utilizes an adjacent 1980’s-era building as an efficient means of capturing existing square footage for a new classroom wing.


School interiors incorporate display areas for the showcase of local art, large-scale historic photographs, lively floor patterns, and vibrant paint colors, all inspired by local themes. These components were thoughtfully integrated into the design as a means for the School District to say “thank you” to taxpayers who showed support for this valuable amenity through successful bond passage.