It’s really no secret at this point: The oceans are rising. A recent scientific study published in Nature nearly doubled previous predictions for sea-level rise by 2500, and some experts now believe the oceans will rise by nearly six feet by the end of this century alone. That said, many cities are preparing for the inevitable. New York City is funding a $100-million flood protection plan after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, and the city is delivering a series of flood education programs. Countries like the Netherlands have built dams and dykes to withstand a 1-in-10,000 year storm.
Nearly 200 million people worldwide live in high-risk coastal flooding zones, and in the United States, more than 36 million people currently face the threat of flooding. As most recently illustrated by Hurricane Katrina, a sudden swell of the ocean can be catastrophic. Will flood-proof houses be the last line of defense? These innovative, buoyant homes look to withstand the tribulations of a turbulent future. Vietnamese firm H&P Architects recently completed the Blooming Bamboo Home, which is raised on stilts to deal with severe weather and floodwaters up to five feet high.
The pre-fabricated, flood-proof Float Home, designed by Morphosis Architects, is a home built to withstand a Katrina-scale event. In the event of a flood, the house’s foundation acts as a raft, rising along with the water level. Features like a rainwater catcher and solar panels make the house self-sustaining when the home — and the entire city — is off the grid. Thankfully, over the past decade since Katrina, our hurricane models have improved substantially, but unfortunately our infrastructure is still unready for a wetter world. As cities scramble to come up with flood plans, perhaps we’ll see more of these floating home designs in flood-prone areas.
Location: Stinson Beach, California
This swanky beach house was designed to handle just about any swerve Mother Nature decides to send its way. The abode was created by San Francisco-based design firm Studio Peek Ancona and is located in Marin County, California and can withstand a storm surge or rising seas up to 12 feet high.
The home itself is a prefabricated metal unit set on a pair of concrete and steel columns, each of which is nestled securely in a rebar-reinforced foundation. Red cedar panels along the exterior add insulative properties to the home and also acts as a rain screen during severe weather.
In the event of a major flood, the garage on the ground floor has been constructed to break free from the foundation itself and float away. This works to prevent the garage from potentially risking the structural integrity of the columns and living area above. The stairways are cleverly set perpendicular to the ocean, allowing crashing tide or rising waters to channel through rather than against them.
Location: Hanoi, Vietnam
Vietnamese firm H&P Architects has already completed the Blooming Bamboo Home to combat the severe weather and flooding in the region. Raised on stilts, the first-generation model is built to survive a flood with waters up to five feet high. H&P is working to ensure the next-gen model will be able to withstand floodwaters up to nearly 10 feet high.
The exterior is made of bamboo, fiberboard, and coconut leaves. These versatile and locally abundant materials make it easy to customize the Blooming Bamboo Home for a range of climates, both seasonal and regional. One of the walls can even fold down into an open-air deck, and the exterior is designed to accommodate a vertical garden, exemplifying the functionality of the structure. Similarly, a filtration system housed beneath the home collects rainwater from the roof and stores it for use on site.
The Float House is an ambitious, affordable housing project based in New Orleans. The city still hasn’t fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina, and these pre-fabricated, flood-proof homes designed by Morphosis Architects attempt to ensure the region can withstand the next Katrina-scale event.
During a flood, the foundation of the house acts as a raft, rising with the water. The FLOAT House has the ability to rise up to 12 feet on guide posts, which are secured via two concrete pile caps that extend 45 feet into the earth for added stability.
The house is also designed to be as self-sufficient as it is flood-proof. Cisterns within the structure store rainwater collected from the roof, and the water is then filtered and stored until needed. Solar panels on the roof generate all of the house’s power. Electrical systems in the home store and convert this energy as needed.
The foundation or “chassis” also supports an array of customizable configurations, unlike many prefabricated homes. This allows The Float House to utilize a shotgun home model — one of the most prominent architectural styles in the Lower Ninth Ward. This allows the community to focus on the future viability of the region, without sacrificing its rich, cultural history.
Dutch Floating Homes
Location: Maasbommel, The Netherlands
More than half of the Netherlands is at or below sea level, meaning the nation’s entire existence is hinged on an intricate system of levees, dykes, floodgates, and canals. Ever since the disastrous North Sea Floods of 1953, the Dutch have touted the international gold standard in flood prevention. Smaller Dutch towns, such as Maasbommel, are still outside of this deterrent infrastructure.
In 2005, the Dutch Government gave the construction firm Dura Vermeer a grant to come up with flood preventative “adaptive building techniques.” This resulted in a series of amphibious floating homes along the Meuse River. Like several of these other designs, these Dutch homes utilize the buoyant foundation concept. The floating hulls allow the homes to rise from their foundations to a height of 13 feet. The homes are held in place via subterranean moorings and guide posts, and even when afloat, the they remain connected to electrical and sewer utilities through a flexible piping system.
These homes aren’t cheap, however. The 1,290-square-foot model costs between $322,000 and $386,000. That’s still a drop in the bucket — excuse the metaphor — when compared to the costs of rebuilding after a major flood.
Location: Ban Sang District, Thailand
Thailand has been one of the countries most affected by rampant flooding in recent years. In 2011 alone, 66 of Thailand’s 70 total provinces experienced major floods, leading to hundreds of deaths. With stronger storms and rising tides, these deadly floods will only increase in the coming decades.
In cooperation with Thailand’s National Housing Association, the firm Site-Specific Co. Ltd is working to bring affordable flood-proof homes to a region in dire need. The amphibious design utilizes the dry dock model, and a video shows a preliminary test where the home rises nearly three feet as the space beneath the house is flooded. Complete with electricity and flexible-pipe plumbing, the designers plan on anchoring the house to the lakeshore.
Location: London, England
Designed by Baca Architects, the Amphibious House is the first such home in the United Kingdom. The top portion of the home is made from lightweight timber while the bottom is a buoyant, concrete hull that the architects describe as a “free-floating pontoon.”
The base of the house is settled in what is essentially a wet dock. As water fills the dock, the house rises with the water. The Amphibious House is guided on a series of fixed steel posts, allowing it to rise eight feet. A series of flexible pipes also ensures the utilities are not disconnected as the house rises.
Just a couple miles away, the firm is currently working on a second flood-proof house.
If preventive architectural design is your thing, you might also enjoy our coverage of this seismically resistant wooden skyscraper, and our list of the most “earthquake-proof” structures on the planet.