Bridgette Meinhold

Brad Pitt Unveils Flood-Surviving Float House for Make It Right Foundation

by , 10/06/09

float-house, brad pitt, make it right, make it right foundation, float house, morphosis architects, thom mayne, floating house, new orleans, sustainable materials

Brad Pitt has been making waves in the green building world lately, so it’s only appropriate that the newest house completed for his Make It Right Foundation project be a floating one. Being revealed today in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, the Float House by Morphosis Architects, goes beyond sustainable design and construction and is built within the context of its environment – it can float. In case of flooding, the home can literally break away from it’s moorings and rise up up to 12 feet on two guideposts. It won’t float away, but it will act as a raft and provide the family with enough battery power to allow them to survive for up to three days until help arrives.

brad pitt, make it right, make it right foundation, float house, morphosis architects, thom mayne, floating house, new orleans, sustainable materials

Thom Mayne, founder of Morphosis and winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, wanted to build a home that could survive through hurricane flooding as well fit in with the surrounding homes. He and his team designed a house that was essentially built on a chassis of polystyrene foam and covered with glass-reinforced concrete. During hurricane flooding conditions, the home could break away from its electrical lines, gas and plumbing and rise with the flood waters. Anchored to its site by two guideposts the home could sustain 12 foot high flood waters.

While it has never been tested in real life flood conditions, Morphosis conducted extensive computer simulations and modeled it to withstand Hurricane Katrina-like conditions. There is also a battery backup in the home with enough capacity to power crucial appliances for up to three days.

As with all Make It Right homes, the Float House is built with environmentally friendly materials, but in contrast to the other homes, this one is built on the ground level rather than 12 feet above the ground. Mayne and Morphosis wanted to retain the look of the existing community and make it more accessible to people who didn’t want to or couldn’t get up a huge flight of stairs. Mayne says about the house and design, “Hopefully it never gets used. But when it gets used, it’s important.”

+ Morphosis Architects

Via Ecorazzi and NPR

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16 Comments

  1. SprayFoamNation October 3, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I own a spray foam insulation supply company and we have a branch located in Chalmette, LA since January 2010. In driving around the 9th Ward, I can’t believe homes are still empty with original FEMA markings after Katrina. As an outsider, I see the potential for incredible growth for an incredible city, but I also see a certain group of people afraid of change, afraid of new ideas and of truly making progress because of their own inferiority complexes. The Make It Right Foundation should be applauded for striving to help the City Of New Orleans progress. Could they have done better ? – absolutely. But lets stay focused on what we can do rather than what others haven’t been able to do. I have an idea on a floating house. If GREEN HOME MAN could respond I’d like to meet with him or anyone else who is interested in doing something positive that could help the City- the people of New Orleans in these flood zone areas.

  2. Minnow August 29, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    It is good this is being done but is Brad or anyone else going to do anything about the type of bullying called mobbing and gangstalking that is going on, causing so much pain and heartache and suicides?

  3. Dian Norred July 13, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Gosh you people are ugly.Brad is doing his best to just help.He hasn’t said this is his design,He is just helping people what are you doing?What have you done lately to help anyone?the one guy said he built 100 houses with his own money sounds jealous cause he is not famous his name is not out there.Look Brad was famous before, that is why everyone knows what he is doing.As a human being just be happy someone is doing something no matter who it is or what the house may look like.I just wish I had the money to help someone.

  4. susmita June 22, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    I am looking forward to a perfect theory which can be applicable for Bangladesh..its flood prone..the floating house idea is essential for us if we can make it perfectly..but we have to make it in cheap cost for the people maximum are poor..the villages are flood prone mainly..

  5. ROBERT BIERY April 26, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    MAY I SHOW YOU A PROTOTYPE I HAVE DEVELOPED? I CALL IT THE WAATERLOFT

  6. MR GREEN HOME MAN January 3, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    bRAD BETTER WAIT UP AND SMELL THE ROSES. I DON’T KNOW WHAT HE’S PULLING BUT AS AN ENGINEER THE THEORY WON’T FLOAT. HOMES BUILT PROPERLY WON’T FLOAT SO HIS ARCHITECT BETTER HIRE AN ENGINEER. ALSO HIS HOMES FOR THE NEOGHBORHOOD ARE A DISASTER. I HAVE BUILT NEALY 100 HOMES IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD AND I CAN ATTEST TO THE FACT THAT HE DOES NOT CARE ABOUT BUILDING HOMES BUT WHAT HE DOES CARE ABOUT IS HIS TESTIMONY TO HIMSELF. WITH THE MONEY HE HAS EXPNSED HE COULD HAVE BUILT THREE TIMES AS MANY HOMES AND HELPED ALOT MORE PEOPLE. I HAVE BUILT AS MANY HOMES AS HE HAS WITH MY OWN MONEY SO I KNOW. MAYBE BRAD SHOULD BE TAKEN OFF THAT WHITE HORSE AND SHOWN A LITTLE BIT OF REALITY.

  7. rlardizabal October 8, 2009 at 9:33 am

    I would like to have a hundred thousand of these! How do I go about it?

  8. texans October 8, 2009 at 7:58 am

    hey,
    Good job with getting people back to there lives and homes.

  9. Ben Theredonethat October 8, 2009 at 2:26 am

    The concept of a floating house is reasonable for flood-prone lands, but this particular version leaves something to be desired. Clearly it is not the first in the U.S. Numerous houseboats used for permanent occupancy exist at Waldo Point in Sausalito, California that do the same thing. With flat bottoms, they rest on the ground when the tide is the lowest, yet rise up to 15 feet at high tide. Their utility connections are flexible and are not broken with rising tides. And they can be built cheaper than this “float house” (that has an expensive foam hull) using nearly conventional, ferrocement reinforced-concrete foundation construction. The design for this “float house” is flashy but inefficient. The architect appears to be “show-boating” with this untraditional design, but that might discourage builders and owners desiring more conventional appearing homes. Being so narrow, the home’s interior wastes space with a long corridor and wastes building materials by enclosing less square footage for the given volume of structure. Being really narrow, it is also more likely to tip over while floating than a wider, shorter home, and thus requires a degree of torque-resisting anchoring poles that are more expensive than otherwise necessary. The narrow width is good for shipping from a distant factory, but then why not build the entire home in the factory and save even more money? The numerous vacant lots in New Orleans lend themselves more to onsite construction with a portable form that can precast 4″ thick ferrocement hulls and then be moved to nearby lots for subsequent homes. A simple 4″ thick slab with 4″ thick foundation walls that are 4′ high will enclose sufficient volume to float a two-story home with adequate freeboard. As an architect, I’ve designed such a houseboat for Waldo Point with an interior that is more appealing because of its width and two-story separation of living and sleeping areas. Needless to say, a floating home like Brad Pitt’s group built or otherwise will someday be built by others offers everyday benefits of eliminating as many steps needed for elevated homes. Let’s encourage others to improve on this model as a way to keep New Orleans livable during the future with rising sea levels and inevitable floods.

  10. alanrivera October 8, 2009 at 2:07 am

    oh as an addendum:
    The designs are really ugly. What’s this-Baroque-Modern? Houseboats have more aesthetics and charm, while this “floating house” design looks like they were designed by urban squatters. I think an architect should show some modicum of respect to the people it envisions using these houses even if they do happen to be squatters or people in the low income brackets.

  11. alanrivera October 8, 2009 at 1:21 am

    Brad Pit’s concern is probably a trickle down of Angie’s own work. But that’s beside the point. They say the idea hasn’t been tested and it’s all theory at the moment. Well. with Brad’s clout and being in show biz, he can have the house built in one of those Hollywood studios where they build huge humongous pools for shooting sea adventures. Let them test the house there and see what works and what doesn’t. I’m from the Philippines where a lot of people lost their homes (and some lost their lives) because of a Katrina-like typhoon where waters rose so suddenly that a lot of people had to clamber up 2nd storeys (the lucky ones with two floors) while others (even those with two storey houses) had to go up their roofs to escape the flood and wait for rescue (a local actress who lived in a gated subdivision was rescued from her roof; and by a fellow actor who knew of her plight). Maybe the Morphosis team could build a few here and see what happens. The Philippines would make a great lab for that purpose because we have flooding every frigging year.

  12. The grass is always gre... October 7, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    What an absolutely ugly design. Looks like a single wide trailer on a barge. I would feel like I was crammed into a sardine can just waiting to die. Not a very comfortable way to have to live. Too boxy and coldy empty looking. Brad must prefer small cramped sparse places, deep down and all the colossel houes he lives in are, just for show. Come on Brad, stop playing the part.

  13. JW in Tokyo October 7, 2009 at 11:14 am

    To DF in Louisiana:

    Nowhere do I see that Brad Pit designed the house or is claiming that it is something new. Actually, the above article says, “Thom Mayne, founder of Morphosis and winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, wanted to build a home that could survive through hurricane flooding….” There are similar houses in the Netherlands….. There are no tricks. B.P. is just using his money to help people. What have you done recently to help people?

  14. DF in Louisiana October 7, 2009 at 8:20 am

    Hey Brad, why are you trying to claim you’ve created something new?! All this is is a houseboat on land. You saw all the barges and the houseboats on the rivers in Louisiana. Now you’re trying to trick everyone who doesn’t live here into believing you’re some great inventor. This just further proves how gullible and stupid people are. At any rate, you should know better, Brad! Shame on YOU!!!

  15. malibugene October 6, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    This idea could go much farther. I have often thought that homes in earthquake and fire areas could benefit from an expanded version of this idea. Take the flood-surviving house and float it on an enlarged swimming pool like a houseboat. If there was a significant earthquake, it would just slosh back and forth with no damage. If there was a fire, one would have a substantial stash of water to protect the property, using the pool pump and hoses. The pool equipment would keep the water clean and provide recreation for the family.

  16. mgc October 6, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Why can’t the utilities be attached in the “2 guide posts” so as not to be broken away during rising water? And furthermore, if we didn’t have that silly stormwater sewer grid to begin with we wouldn’t be in this mess. Who’s fixing that problem? Have Brad Pitt andThom Mayne call a Civil Engineer / Urban Planner.

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