Amphibious House Design Goes With the Flow, Rises With Floods

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Stilt houses on a river in Bangkok, Thailand.

gionnixxx / Getty Images

Images Credit A Site-Specific Experiment

Thai architect Chuta Sinthuphan's projects shown in TreeHugger are usually made of shipping containers and address the issue of housing cost, but his latest, designed for the Thai government, looks a different problem: flooding.

It isn't a new problem; Bangkok was once known as the "Venice of the East." Traditionally, Thai houses were often built on stilts, or even as rafts. Chuta writes that "Through our research, there were a few communities in southern Thailand that had built their homes as rafts on short pilings. So we embraced this idea as a starting point."

site specific experiment flood proof housing image

The house sits on an undercarriage made of buoyancy tanks that sit in a depression under the house, keeping the house close to the ground, so that it doesn't look out of context. The house is kept in place by slip columns that let the house travel up and down with the water level. Rainwater harvesting, solar panels and turbines are included for self-sufficiency.

site specific experiment flood proof housing image

But it is more than just an autonomous house; Chuta notes that there are three scales of the problem that have to be addressed: the survival of the homes and occupants, the survival of the knitted community and finally, what happens when help arrives.

There are 4-building types in the community that are typical to Thai community - residential, commercial, residential/commercial hybrid and civic buildings. The community is divided into several mini-communities. The mini-community is typically made out of 5-10 buildings that are made up of several building types, so the residents can assist each other in the flood. Thus, the residents can survive longer prior the the arrival of external help.
site specific experiment flood proof housing image
The homes will be built using prefabricated panels with steel framing. This construction method allows that homes to be much lighter than traditional construction yet remain very strong for everyday abuse.
site specific experiment flood proof housing image

It seems like a sensible idea; In New Orleans, many of the new houses are built permanently on concrete stilts and look pretty clunky. Morphosis did a floating house in the Lower Ninth Ward that looks a lot more at home.


Although I must say that I think the traditional idea of lightweight homes on stilts has a certain charm. Read more at A Site-Specific Experiment.