Built on Stilts: Brick House Rises on Jacks During Floods

This story is part of Treehugger's news archive. Learn more about our news archiving process or read our latest news.
©. Larkfleet Group of Companies

The great American architect Louis Sullivan wrote:

It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law.
elevating house

© Larkfleet Group of Companies

Then there is this, discovered on Inhabitat; a boxy brick house weighing 71 US tons that rises up five feet above the ground when there is a flood. Being built by Larkfleet, a british builder, it theoretically could open up new development sites.

Karl Hick, CEO of The Larkfleet Group of Companies, said: “The elevating house effectively eliminates the risk of flood damage to homes so that more land across the country can be approved for future home building. This will help to tackle the ‘housing crisis’ that is being caused by the demand for new housing far exceeding the supply.”

The house will have flexible water and sewage connections and solar power so it could keep going for a while in a flood. However the builders expect that the owners would “pack up, lock up and jack up the home before taking refuge in temporary accommodation on higher ground elsewhere”.
But it looks so odd, a big heavy brick house sitting up there on jacks. Why not have form follow function? Why not design a lighter house? Why not just build it on stilts five feet up in the first place? Look at what some of our best architects have built on stilts, on sites that can flood.

© Kieran Timberlake

There is Kieran Timberlake’s Loblolly house, one of my favourites.

Sol Duc Cabin

© Tom Kundig/ Sol Duc Cabin

There is Olson Kundig’s Sol Duc Cabin, which is also designed to seal up tight when the owners are away.

Dymaxion House

© R. Buckminster Fuller Estate

And of course Bucky Fuller’s Dymaxion house hung from a central mast and weighed almost nothing.

Which brings us back to this silly Larkfleet house on hydraulics. It would be a lot simpler and cheaper just to build a nice light house up on five foot stilts than to try and lift 71 tons of bricks. Or to simply remember that form follows function.