Building in a flood zone sounds like asking for trouble, but that doesn’t have to be the case if you use the right construction techniques. The most basic strategy to avoid rising waters is to raise the buildings above the flood level, but we’re more impressed by the houses that actually float off the ground when waters rush in. While this type of automated flood defense isn’t as common as elevated homes, we may see it pop up in more houses as flooding threatens to become a regular occurrence around the world. To take a closer look at these adaptive structures, we’ve rounded up six amphibious houses that float above the floodwaters—keep reading to see them all.
Baca Architects designed the Amphibious House, a flood-resistant home that enjoys gorgeous waterfront views without risk of water damage. Sited on the coveted banks of the River Thames in Buckinghamshire’s town of Marlow, the luxury home, which is described as the UK’s first amphibious house, rests on separated foundations that let the structure float upwards on extended guideposts when the River Thames overflows. The buoyant home has a 2.5-meter-high floodwater clearance.
The LEED Platinum-certified FLOAT House is one of our favorite amphibious homes due to its small environmental footprint. Designed by Morphosis for Brad Pitt’s Make it Right Foundation in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, the net-zero 945-square-foot home offers a solution for floodwater-prone regions around the globe. The house is built on a prefabricated chassis made of polystyrene foam coated in glass fiber-reinforced concrete that’s lightweight enough to serve as a raft when floodwaters buoy the home up.
Amphibious homes can also be affordable, as evidenced in H&P Architects’ designs for these bamboo homes in Southeast Asia. Made from locally-sourced bamboo, the thatched homes are built on platforms constructed from reused oil drums anchored in place. The recycled oil drums serve as a float and allow floodwater to buoy the home upwards.
It should come as no surprise that the Netherlands is home to amphibious architecture given their low-lying landscapes. Dutch firms Waterstudio and Dura Vermeer completed a famous example of amphibious housing in Maasbommel, an area near the Maas River. Though the homes there sit on the river bottom, the architecture is engineered so that the house and foundation will float upwards in the event of a flood. Electrical and sewer lines are kept intact thanks to flexible pipes.
When heavy monsoon rains caused major flooding in Pakistan in 2010, approximately one-fifth of the country’s total land area was affected and 20 million people were directly affected. In a bid to provide relief, Green Container International Aid designed the Amphibious Container, an emergency shelter made from reclaimed shipping containers, shipping pallets, and inner tire tubes that can break away from the ground and float in case of flooding.
While the above amphibious house examples explore buoyancy, Between Art and Technology (BAT) Studio decided to take a different approach in their design of a flood-resistant structure. Instead of letting the waters push the structure up, the Greenhouse That Grows Legs uses a hydraulic lifting system that can raise the building 800 millimeters off the ground. The homeowners can move the building via remote control.