The Best Flood Insurance Ever—This House Rises With the Water

Construction technology that’s been tried and tested in the marine industry is starting to appear in architecture.
The amphibious house remains high and dry even during a flood. (Courtesy Baca Architects)
Jan 17, 2013
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

The Earth hasn’t quite reached Waterworld status yet, but between events like Hurricane Sandy, super typhoons in the Western Pacific, and England’s wettest year on record, our spinning blue marble experienced quite its share of extreme weather events, particularly flooding, in 2012.

In Britain, they’ve decided to dive right in to try and deal with this issue, and The Guardian reports that in one area of the country there’s a scheme that “proposes homes around marshes, squares that are designed to become ponds, and parks that become small lakes.”

Perhaps even more daring is a proposal for a floating, or amphibious, house from Baca Architects, a firm that’s recognized for innovation in flood-resilient and adaptable architecture and spatial planning. “We initially set up our firm with the aim to create more sustainable architecture and mitigate climate change,” Baca partner Robert Barker tells TakePart. “We soon identified the need to deal with the effects of climate change too, and one of the most devastating effects is flood risk.”

MORE: 2012's Bizarre, Destructive Weather: Is Climate Change to Blame?

He went on to explain that, “Baca Architects established the LifE (Long-term Initiatives for Flood-risk Environments) in 2005 to identify ways in which the construction industry could help tackle rising carbon dioxide emissions and adapt to climate change—and in particular to flood risk. We secured funding from the U.K. Government to develop these ideas with an expert team in 2007.”

Barker said the concept of the amphibious house is based upon the Archimedes Principle of Buoyancy and is developed from boat technologies. An amphibious house rests on the ground on fixed foundations, but if a flood occurs, the entire building rises up in its dock and floats there, buoyed by the floodwater.

For this to work, “The upper part of the house is a lightweight timber construction that rests on a concrete hull, creating a free-floating pontoon, while the whole house is set between four ‘dolphins,’ permanent vertical guideposts to keep it in place,” says Barker. “These guideposts, more normally found on marinas, have been integrated with the design and are a visible feature on the exterior of the building.”

The house is fronted by a riverside garden that has a number of terraces that step down from the house to the water’s edge. The terraces are set at different levels that will incrementally flood when the river rises from its banks. Barker says this is “part of the practice’s ‘intuitive landscape’ philosophy, that seeks to shape the spaces around settlements so that they can flood in a predetermined way.”

He adds, “This allows residents to be more conscious of their natural environment and in turn raise their awareness to flood risk. The lowest terrace will be planted with reeds, another with shrubs and plants, another will be lawn, and the highest level will afford a patio with access into the dining room.”

In terms of practicality, Barker explained that while floating construction is tried and tested in the marine industry, its application in architecture is relatively new.

“The Dura Vermeer Group constructed the first generation of the dwelling in Maasbommel in the Netherlands in 2005, consisting of a 32 amphibious dwellings, and 14 floating homes, built on the side of a dyke using floating bases that were anchored to mooring posts. Designed to accommodate a water level difference of up to five and a half meters, the properties successfully performed as designed in the Dutch floods of February 2011,” he says.

Amphibious construction to date has only been used in small buildings but it has the potential to overcome flood risk on a much larger scale by creating whole floating platforms, says Barker. “This could provide a cost-effective solution to regenerating or preserving important sites where having to relocate residents and communities would have dire social or economic consequences.”

And as Philip Atkinson, a planning consultant, told The Guardian, “The levels are rising, so everyone has to understand we have to start living with the water.”

Would you be willing to live in an amphibious house? Tell us in the COMMENTS.

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