The earliest civilizations of the world all grew around river valleys, their livelihoods were primarily dependent around water. Even today, water bodies continue to nourish the communities around them. While being an usher of nutrients and a warden of ecosystems, water bodies cause widespread and deadly floods that demolish people’s property and dreams. Architecture may not be able to entirely combat floods, but it can aid in mitigating damage and in turn saving lives.
Rethinking The Future lists 10 flood-resistant buildings that rise above its difficulties:
1. Blooming Bamboo Home
Vietnamese studio H&P Architects has designed an affordable housing prototype that can withstand floods up to three meters above the ground. Raised on stilts, the house is accessed through wooden ladders that lift one to a small deck that surrounds the house. The exterior is made of bamboo, fiberboard, and coconut leaves, being versatile, abundant, locally available, and hence customizable. The vernacular structure features walls that fold outwards and also accommodate a vertical garden. The bottom of the house, through which water would pass in times of flooding, is used to keep plants and animals, and a filtration system that collects and stores rainwater.
2. The Kentish Classic, London
The winning entry of competition on design urban homes of the future, The D*Haus Company pitched these vernacular-styled townhouses designed for the city of London that would possibly witness heavy urban flooding. The proposal displays prefabricated timber homes elevated above the rising water levels by 3D-printed concrete platforms. The design is inspired by the two-storey Georgian style homes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as well as the colorful buildings around London, stating that the inhabitants of the future would want to retrofit their buildings with motifs from the past.
3. The LIFT House, Dhaka
The LIFT (Low Income Floor-proof Technology) House was designed and constructed by Prithula Prosun, a result of her Master’s thesis on creating an innovative solution for sustainable flood-resistant housing for the urban poor of Dhaka. The house floats upward with rising water levels and returns to the ground level as the water recedes. Buoyancy is achieved using a hollow Ferro-cement foundation along with a bamboo framed foundation filled with old plastic water bottles.
4. Flood-Proof House by Studio Peek Ancona
This Californian beach house is equipped to withstand a storm surge or rising seas up to 12 feet high. The home is a prefabricated metal unit set on a pair of concrete and steel columns, secured by a rebar-reinforced foundation. In the situation of flooding, the ground floor garage has been constructed to detach from the foundation and float away, preventing its potential risk of compromising the structural integrity of the columns above. The stairways deliberately are set perpendicular to the ocean so that crashing tides or rising water channel through rather than against them.
5. The Float House, New Orleans
Following the devastating hurricane Katrina, the Float House is a prototype for a prefabricated, self-sufficient house that can survive flood waters generated by huge storms. The low-income housing project by Morphosis Architects is mass-produced and doesn’t neglect the vibrant culture and unique context of New Orleans. Similar to the colorful vernacular houses of the area, the Float House sits on a 4-foot base that serves as a porch. The house only rises on its guideposts during severe flooding, and the base acts as a raft guided by steel masts.
6. Farnsworth House, Illinois
The Mies van der Roh’s international symbol for modernist architecture. The Farnsworth House has suffered significant damage in recent years due to the flooding of an adjacent river, despite being designed following the projected 100-year flood depth. The Buoyant Foundation proposes a fully below-grade retrofit installation that would raise and float the house in cases of extreme flooding, to protect the valuable cultural asset. It would include underground vertical guidance posts that extended from the house’s existing wide flange columns, along which the house would rise and fall. The steel subframe installed under the house would support a matrix of buoyancy while remaining hidden from view.
7. NRC Pavillion, Ontario
A team led by the University of Waterloo professor Elizabeth English has built a floating research pavilion to test materials that can best withstand Canada’s freeze-thaw cycle that accounts for some of its floods. The project is driven by the potential to empower communities by avoiding displacement and reducing recovery time and costs. Built on a stormwater retention pond, the research aims to monitor and evaluate the performance of various buoyant materials to use in the design and construction of a retrofit prototype.
8. Casa Anfibia, Nicaragua
Casa Anfibia is a housing proposal for the riverine community of Malacatoya that allows its people to remain on their land of origin, without the need for relocation or rebuilding. The affordable design features renewable and recycled materials and is highly transferable to different contexts. A surrounding deck is incorporated to foster community interaction and for their poultry and livestock. The design utilizes recycled plastic barrels for buoyancy due to their widespread availability and low cost, while bamboo is used to construct the house itself.
9. Amphibious House by Site Specific
The firm Site-Specific Co Ltd was inspired by vernacular housing strategies of Thai communities to create an affordable flood-proof home to the modern-day cities of Thailand. Built as rafts, the design uses a prefabricated steel floating system that sits under the house to collect rainwater while remaining hidden. The house prefabricated panels with steel framing allow it to be stronger and much lighter than traditional construction. As the water level rises, the depression gets filled with water and the house will be pre-buoyant in case of a flood.
10. Amphibious Housing in Maasbommel
With more than half of the Netherlands being at or below sea level, the nation’s existence is centered around water. In a recreation area along the river Maas, 32 amphibious and 14 floating homes have been realized. Its floating hulls allow the homes to rise from their foundations and are held in place by subterranean moorings and guideposts. Even when afloat, the houses remain connected to electrical and sewer utilities through a flexible piping system. The fastenings to the mooring posts limit the motion caused by the water, and the house’s low center of gravity gives added stability.