Decoding Design

Three designs to survive floods and earthquakes

Posting in Architecture

How can a house that sits on the ground survive a flood or an earthquake? Designs from the UK, Japan, and Thailand offer solutions.

How can a house that sits on the ground survive a flood or an earthquake? Instead of fighting or surrendering to natural disasters, designs for homes that float and levitate respond to the natural forces.

The following designs from Thailand, Great Britain, and Japan offer solutions based on traditional and conventional technology used in innovative ways.

Amphibious House

Inspired by the homes of an amphibious Thai community whose homes are built on stilts and incorporate bamboo rafts, architecture firm Site-Specific developed designs for an Amphibious House with a prefabricated steel floatation system. The system consists of a main slip-tube column set in an underground trench and a frame of pontoons under the main structure. Unless there was flooding, the house would sit at street level on foundation columns. When water levels rise, the trench beneath the home would fill with water and the home would float up but not away.

Site-Specific built a private commission floating home in November of 2011 and discovered the importance of designing for weight distribution in a building that moves.

The firm has received a grant from Thailand's National Housing Agency to build a prototype Amphibious House for a recently flooded area in Thailand. The firm hopes to take all lessons learned and develop mini amphibious communities that would hold central functions and provide assistance during floods.

Amphibious House too

In the UK, plans for an amphibious house on the banks of the River Thames have been approved for construction. Since the project is replacing a previous house and flood risk was reduced, the local British Planning Authority approved the proposal.

The flood-proof design by Baca Architects is very similar to Site Specific's Amphibious House. The system consists of four fixed  columns and pontoons in a bathtub-like dock. The foundations are hidden in the underground dock and the building will rise and float within its dock when floodwaters rise.

The project will be built in late 2012.

Levitating House

Japanese culture blog Spoon & Tamago report that Air Danshin Systems Inc. is developing a system that uses air pressure to levitate structures during an earthquake. The basic concept is similar to an amphibious house using air to lift the structure instead of water.

The system starts with a sensor that within a half second to a second of detecting earthquake rumblings would trigger an airtank to push air between a secondary foundation and the main structure of the house. The home would be lifted 3 centimeters, which is a little over an inch.

Air Danshin Systems Inc. claims that their system is a low-cost alternative, supposedly one third the cost of other earthquake-proof systems. The company is also marketing their system to laboratories and factories.

Via: GuardianThe TelegraphSpoon & Tamago

Images: copyright Site-Specific, Baca Architects

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Sun Kim

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure