With the recent floods in the UK affecting many areas, and with more bad weather to come, prevention methods rather than mop up operations are at the forefront of environmental innovations. So it is with interest that we report on a story, first featured on BBC News, about the possible construction of floating houses in England. Earlier this year, Baca Architects was granted full planning permission to build the UK’s first amphibious house, which is set to stand on the banks of the River Thames in Buckinghamshire. It is said to provide an imaginative architectural solution to overcome the threat of flooding. The Local Authority supported this proposal because it was a replacement dwelling so flood risk was reduced on this site.
It is thought that the imaginative design was inspired by flood management in the Netherlands, as much of their land lies below sea level and the Dutch are widely acknowledged as having the best flood management technologies in the world. In fact, the technology that provides flood forecasting, currently used by the Environment Agency, has even been developed by the Dutch.
The Dutch use an array of technologies, some of which date back to the 12th century, in order to protect their citizens against flooding. They typically drain delta swamps and create dry land (polders) and there are currently some 3,500 low-lying polders which are enclosed by dykes in the Netherlands. They easily collect water from rain, rivers and the sea, and are constantly being pumped to keep nearby communities dry.
Jos Maccabiani from Flood Control 2015 says: “The Dutch have built dykes for over 1,000 years,” he added: “Since the last major flood in 1953, in which more than 1,800 people died, this system has been upgraded to very high standards.” And it seems that their systems are working as according to computer simulations, the defences put in place in the Netherlands are supposed to withstand the kind of flood so severe that it would occur only once in 10,000 years.
Many of the Dutch people live below sea level so managing floods is vital to communities. Mr Maccabiani adds: “Nevertheless, with the ever-increasing urbanisation of our polders and flood plains, spatial planning is increasingly combined with flood resilience. There are projects under way where urban revitalisation of a city is combined with the widening of the river bed, lowering the peak water levels, and others that look into flood-proofing the country’s highway infrastructure.”
So a house that floats with the rising water levels and then sinks to its original position when the flood subsides would appear to be a manageable solution. The amphibious house is described as a building that rests on the ground on fixed foundations but, whenever a flood occurs, the entire building rises up in its dock and floats there, buoyed by the floodwater.
The house is designed as a free-floating pontoon. The floating house is secured by four dolphins (permanent vertical posts) arranged close up to the sidewalls. The assembly is sited within a wet dock comprising retaining walls and base slab. When flooding occurs the dock fills with water and the house rises accordingly.
And as the government have failed to come to any agreement with insurers regarding the possible withdrawal of flood insurance, a floating house is not such a bad idea.
Source BBC News
All pictures courtesy Baca Architects