The FLOAT House, designed by Morphosis for Brad Pitt's Make it Right Foundation in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, is a housing solution for the floodwater-prone regions around the world. Optimized for efficient mass-production, the home is a culturally, economically, and environmentally responsible structure designed to break free from its moorings and rise to a height of twelve feet in the event of flooding. The two bedroom, 945 square feet model was first introduced in 2009, and as it continues to grow in popularity it is now on track for a LEED Platinum rating with a net-zero annual energy consumption.
Morphosis respected the cultural vernacular of the common New Orleans shotgun house by first raising the structure off the ground level to protect the building from flooding. The outstanding part of this alteration of the indigenous typology is the forethought that all mechanical, plumbing, and sustainable systems will float during floods in a prefabricated “chassis”. The design of the house’s base is based closely on the GM skateboard chassis, which supports several body styles. The chassis is integrated into the design and supports a variety of future home customizations. Currently, the FLOAT House and its prefabricated components sit on a combination of piers and concrete pads assembled on-site.
High-performance power, air, and water systems help this home become a self-sufficient structure with very minimum resource consumption. The roof supports an electricity generating solar panel array which results in a house that gives back to the electrical grid during half the year. Rainwater is also collected from the roof, which is then stored in the chassis for daily use. Other sustainable features include geothermal heating and cooling, low-flow plumbing fixtures, energy-efficient appliances, and highly insulated SIP (Structural Insulated Panel) walls and roof.
Though the Float House was designed by Thom Mayne and students from UCLA Architecture and Urban Design as a house for the Lower Ninth Ward, this affordable and modular success can be replicated for a variety of situations around the world. The FLOAT House is designed for sustainability, mass-production, and flood prone areas. The world could use this house, even if it was replicated for areas that need two of those three design solution characteristics. Morphosis’ website, Morphopedia, still keeps this project in the Research section hopefully because there is more research happening for further interpretations of this wonderful design.
All Photos © Iwan Baan