The Float House, designed by Morphosis Architects, is the latest design to be built by Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation, which is helping families rebuild eco-friendly homes in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. Photo courtesy of Morphosis Architects.
It's like you're Noah and your house is an arc where people can take refuge from flood waters. Sound crazy? Think again.
Brad Pitt's Make it Right Foundation unveiled the first Float House on Wednesday. The home, designed by Morphosis Architects, basically turns into a giant raft in the event of flooding, rising up on guide posts that keep it from floating away. To say that this design floats my boat is an understatement; but there is one thing about it that my eco-heart can't love: The chassis that allows it to float has a polystyrene core.Polystyrene is Eco-Friendly?
According to an NPR interview with the designer, the polystyrene core is covered by glass-reinforced concrete, but it's unclear whether the polystyrene is completely contained, and if it isn't, there is the risk of off-gassing in the home--not great for the home-owners. And what happens if the concrete coating cracks?
Benefits of a Floating Home
While it may not be the greenest option, there are some important benefits to this design.
If the area floods, the home will float upward, up to 12 feet, while a pair of guideposts keep the home from floating away. In addition to creating a safe environment, the design prevents water damage and a whole lot of waste. (For anyone who is worried about gas leaks and live electrical wires, there's a break-off system to eliminate those risks, and the home can run on battery power for three days.)
While the other Make It Right homes are built up off the ground to keep people safe in future floods, this home sits just one meter off the ground. The design eliminates the long flight of stairs up to the entrance, which can be difficult for the elderly and disabled persons. Another benefit of the low-to-the-ground design is it helps bring back the street-level porches that were such an integral part of the Lower 9th Ward community, design director Thom Mayne told NPR:
How do you keep the sense of community and the continuity of the neighborhood, and at the same time deal with this very extreme condition of the flooding? ... The vertical solution seemed to us one way to solve it, but we thought we had a more interesting way, that we could keep the house on the ground.
The other great thing about this home is the building costs are quite low, so it's a great option as low-income housing in flood-prone areas.
A Mostly Eco-Friendly Design that Saves Lives
I'm still more of a fan of the homes on stilts, but for families that include people who can't manage stairs, this is a great option that is still more eco-friendly than most homes (and it's certainly greener than building another home again after another major flood). But most importantly, it will save lives, says Mayne:
...it's thought of as a seatbelt; I mean hopefully it never gets used, but when it gets used, it's important.
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