By Sun Kim
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.
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.
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.
Mar 4, 2012
It may not have occurred to some people, but not building in flood prone areas could be one hell of an incredibly intelligent solution. For earthquake prone areas try geodesic dome construction. There is no record of any of these types of construction having been destroyed by an earthquake. See http://kwickset.net/domehomes.html for more information.
The dutch have been building floatable homes for quite some time now. Since a great deal of the Netherlands is below sea level and flooding is the norm rather than an exception, the Dutch began to notice the rebuilding homes on flood plains over and over again was getting a tad expensive. They decided to build air-filled concrete boxes and build houses on top of these. Sink one or two pilons and connect the structure to same with a big steel ring and the house, etc. will rise with the flood waters without wandering away. As for the air hockey house in Japan, I don't think it will solve any problems unless the house is surrounded by bumpers and a wall at ground level to bounce off of. During most Japanese earthquakes, there is a great deal of lateral movement. Even if the house floats on a constant flow of air and remains in place (kinda / sorta), the earth will move our from under the structure. Your dishes may be safe, but your house will come to rest in a new location, unless you can voluntarily turn the air back on and push your house back where it is supposed to be, assuming it did not bowl over your neighbor's house. Then again, if the neighbor also has an air hockey house and you share a common bumper wall, it would be more like bumper cars than air hockey.
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