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Built on water: Floating Houses

By Ambista

Architects from New York to Shanghai are increasingly being confronted with the same problem: Too little space for too many people. The challenge of developing new habitable spaces within the city is not easy. Many architects, contractors and urban planners are tackling this situation with floating architecture.

The architects of Waterstudio.NL not only design floating houses in the luxury segment in the IJburg district of Amsterdam but also in the rest of the world. © Koen Olthuis – Waterstudio.NL

New living space on the water

Whether it’s Asia, the US or Europe, living space is becoming an important resource in the major cities of the world. Most cities have little room to grow in the central urban area and increasing rents are symptomatic of this crisis. Metropolitan regions in the immediate vicinity of water are trying to develop new living spaces with floating houses in response to the housing shortage.

Floating houses take care of two problems at once: They meet the demand for living space in large cities and also serve as flood protection. Coastal cities in particular are extremely affected by climate change and the resulting rise in sea level. They are therefore looking for new strategies to cope with the water and turn the disadvantage into an advantage.

Floating houses in Amsterdam

It is no wonder that the Netherlands is considered a pioneer when it comes to floating houses. Around a quarter of the country lies below sea level. For the Dutch, water has long been an important element of urban planning. Amsterdam is a major European city known worldwide for the many houseboats that create additional living space in the canals.

However, not only do the residents of Amsterdam live on the water in the city centre but also in the eastern part of the city. The new IJburg district was created here on artificially raised sand islands. In the first construction phase, a total of 18,000 apartments with living space for 45,000 people were created. The Waterbuurt district in the western section of IJburg was also planned at the same time – the Floating Houses IJburg project by Amsterdam-based Marlies Rohmer Architects & Urbanists.

Lacking a firm subsoil, the neighbourhood functions primarily with bridges and jetties, which provide access to the residences. Gardens are not allowed, but living close to the water makes up for it. A lock ensures that the inland sea on which the houses float is separated from the IJMeer. This prevents the apartments from drifting out to sea. The project was completed in 2011 and included both social housing and condos.

Architecturally, however, IJburg is still a long way from being fully developed. To the east, the “Water District” continues to grow. By 2020, the Dutch architectural firm Waterstudio.NL wants to complete around 380 additional apartments, offices, floating gardens and a restaurant. Everything is possible for the architects – from a bungalow to a three-storey residential building.

Amphibious houses on the Thames

Other countries, such as Great Britain, are also discovering water as additional living space. This is how the amphibious houses near Marlow on the Thames in Buckinghamshire came to be. The homes were designed by Baca Architects in London. When the tide is low, the house rests on the ground like a conventional building and can also float in the event of flooding.

This is made possible by a kind of dry dock made of reinforced concrete, which serves as the base of the house. As the floodwaters fill the trough, the house is buoyed up to the surface of the water. An anchoring system keeps it in position and buoyancy is ensured by air chambers under the floor.

Living on the water: The future is now

In Hong Kong and Macau, people have been living on the water for a long time – in jungle settlements consisting of old sailboats that have fallen into disuse. In the US, water communities also have a long tradition. Seattle has one of the largest collections of floating houses in Portage Bay and Lake Union. And Germans are also finding life on the water more and more attractive.

In Hamburg, for example, additional moorings for houseboats and floating houses are being built. The idea of floating architecture is no longer a vision of the future, it is a reality. People learn to live with water and use it for urban development. And not only in Europe or Asia, but throughout the entire world.

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Floating Homes Architectural Solutions to Sea Level Rise

By Lukasz Stepnik
Translated by Aga Zano


As we all know, when Yahweh unleashed a great flood upon humanity, he saved Noah and his family by ordering Noah to build an ark. This story was recorded not only by Jews, but also by other nations, such as the Sumerians and Mesopotamians (except their God was called Ea or Enki, and those saved from the deluge were known as Utnapishtim or Ziusudra). Clearly, they were all onto something. No wonder people of reason are preparing for another flood to come – even in Poland, too.

In the 1995 film Waterworld, Kevin Costner’s character – a fish-like mutated human sailing the endless ocean – takes his beloved Helen for an underwater journey. There, he shows her the drowned ruins of New York City. Corals cover reinforced concrete structures that look like the haunted graveyard of a once-glorious civilization that brought doom upon itself. Scarce dialogues make it difficult to deduce the exact cataclysm that resulted in the world’s submergence under water, but we can assume it was to do with melting ice caps and the immense amounts of carbon dioxide emissions that had been seeping into the atmosphere for decades.

Is the deluge coming for us?

That’s right!

Most scientific prognoses for the Earth’s future look not unlike the Kevin Costner film. This makes the screenwriters for Waterworld pioneers of environmental enlightenment, who educated the masses on the dangers of global warming. Realistic calculations estimate that by the year 2100, ocean waters will rise by 1.5 metres. The Maldives and Bahamas will disappear from maps, just like many European coastal cities and towns that offer luxury seaside vacations. Such a rise in the water level will threaten the lives of over 150 million people living in flooded areas, causing mass migration, and a radical reshuffling of the global economy and politics.

Some of these changes are now beyond remediation. Therefore, the question of time is essential. How long will humans need to adapt to this new reality? Most of the infrastructure created today, such as homes and public buildings, will most likely still exist several decades from now. Thus they should be designed with contingency planning in mind for the worst climate-change scenarios. In the meantime, it appears obvious that this is the last thing politicians and developers want to consider; they are usually interested in little else than their own short-term investment return. Even one of Poland’s most famous modern urban projects – the Wilanów suburb in Warsaw – was built entirely on a flood zone. One day, it might become a financially-attractive alternative to Venice.

Polders in Jakarta

The fastest-drowning city today is Jakarta, located by the Java Sea, which is part of the Pacific Ocean. The northern part of the city has to deal with an annual water level increase of 25 centimetres. This, however, isn’t due solely to global warming – local laws allow all inhabitants to dig their own wells, which leads to a gradual collapse of the ground. Indonesia is trying to save its capital with the aid of Dutch engineers, who have suggested building a network of enormous polders along the coastline. Polders are low-lying areas that fall below the sea-level, but are enclosed by barriers. This solution would help to separate the northern parts of Jakarta from the sea, and double as emergency reservoirs that would contain excess water during a crisis.

The government of Jakarta backed out of its initial idea of creating a new business district on an artificial island shaped like the mystical Garuda bird (a man-eagle of sorts), which would have isolated the coast from the sea. This concept, inspired by Dubai’s urban planning solutions, was eventually abandoned in favour of a less spectacular but more innovative strategy to deal with the consequences of climate change. It involves filling polders with floating homes that could remain safely on the water surface during floods. This solution will also allow commercial use of an area that is utterly useless for traditional construction techniques.

Jakarta is the fastest-drowning city today. Photo: Adobe Stock
Jakarta is the fastest-drowning city today. Photo: Adobe Stock

It is no coincidence that Jakarta hired the Dutch to oversee the project of preparing the city for changes in water levels. Apart from the colonial ties linking the two nations, the Dutch have been experts in reclaiming flooded areas for new projects for centuries. They have perfected the art of building on water, too. Amsterdam invests billions of euros in preventing the city from drowning, and it promotes living in floating homes.

The sea won’t see it coming

The IJburg district, located south of Amsterdam’s city centre, was built on four artificial islands connected by bridges. Between the islands, dozens of floating homes are bobbing along the shores, moored to the islands and using the city’s infrastructure. The continually growing community of IJburg is known for its liberal world view (even by Dutch standards), and at its core are young, well-educated, middle-class people. They consider inhabiting the sea a chance to realize their dreams of living close to nature. Life on a barge or a floating platform today is a hippie extravagance. Soon, it might become a necessity.

Villa IJburg in Amsterdam. Photo: Architect Koen Olthuis, Waterstudio.NL
Villa IJburg in Amsterdam. Photo: Architect Koen Olthuis, Waterstudio.NL

“The Netherlands has long been a pioneer in reclaiming land from water, spending centuries drying out the sea to build. That may have been a mistake,” says Koen Olthuis, an architect and the founder of Waterstudio (an architectural firm that designs floating buildings). When so much land is threatened by floods, perhaps it’s better to invest in a house that can double as a boat, should crisis strike? This is an intriguing alternative for traditional urban planning, but it’s not a new idea. For centuries, Cambodians, Indians and Nigerians have built many towns and villages on areas flooded during rainy season, or just covered in water all year long. Some have created stilt houses, while others have preferred floating platforms that allow the settlements to move during immediate dangers, but also to acclimatize to changing weather conditions.

Such dynamically changing urban development principles could have a significant impact on the ways we all use our cities. It could lead to removing the attachment to particular patches of land. In many densely-urbanized areas all over the world, the amount of dry land available for new building projects is continuously shrinking. This means that throughout the years, there will be more people willing to move their homes to water. It can already be observed in data from the Netherlands, Denmark, Britain and France, where serious consideration is given to creating whole districts made entirely of floating homes.

Koen Olthuis is convinced that this type of building is the best solution for the architecture of the future. His projects are made not only for residential housing; he also designs floating hospitals, schools and theatres. They can easily travel between cities or districts, enriching the infrastructure and reaching places where they are most needed at the moment. However, his strategy raises many questions – most people don’t view living on water as a guarantee of permanence. This opinion is further cemented by news of disasters, like the recent collapse of the most famous floating construction, a school in Makoko, Lagos. The school, designed by the Dutch architectural firm NLÉ, drowned after heavy rain. Many ecologists also highlight the fact that too many floating buildings could affect riverbeds and shorelines, damaging the local fauna and flora. On the other hand, several units could have a surprisingly positive impact on the environment. Floating homes are a fantastic base for the development of underwater ecosystems, because they promote the growth of plants that significantly improve the biodiversity of the habitats of various fish and birds.

This has happened underneath several residential barges, whose impact on the environment was recently analysed by a team of London scientists. As it transpired, the barges are now home to more tenants than just the handful of humans who live inside.

Vistula tenants

Prototype water estates are also appearing in Poland. In the Czerniakowski Port in Warsaw, there are already several residential barges with permanent tenants. The only problem is the lack of space in the port, which makes it impossible to add more vessels to the neighbourhood. And the queue is long, as such floating homes are a tempting alternative to land property. Living on a barge is a bargain. The vessels are prefabricated and assembled of ready-made elements, which means a brand-new home could cost as little as 4000 PLN (around £800) per square metre. A 70–80 square-metre home could therefore cost less than a studio apartment in a big city. There are manufacturers offering steel or wooden skeletons on floats, often made of barrels, or styrofoam covered in concrete. The only trouble with such homes is ensuring an even spread of weight. If we invite 20 or 30 guests and let them all stand in one part of the room, the party would most likely end in a spectacular disaster. But a little caution and a pinch of common sense don’t seem to be a high price to pay for the chance to live in such an unusual and interesting environment.

The human ability to adapt to living on the water is actually quite astonishing. In today’s Indonesia, there are still tribes who spend over 60% of their daily lives on boats, diving for fish. Scientists were recently baffled by research confirming that the Bajau people have adapted to centuries-long evolutionary processes by developing spleens 50% larger than those in people who live on land. This unusual change allows the Bajau people to last up to 13 minutes underwater on just one breath. Moreover, some of them regularly experience land sickness after leaving their boats. What today seems to us curious trivia might one day become the new normal. If ocean waters continue rising at their current pace, it could be that our grand- and great-grandchildren’s genes will have to start making similar changes.

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These solar-powered floating homes are built to withstand floods and hurricanes

By Nicole Jewell
Photo Credits: ARKUP & Waterstudio


As many coastal cities struggle to come up with resiliency plans in the face of rising sea levels, Dutch architect Koen Olthuis with Waterstudio is creating sustainable, solar-powered floating residences that could offer the perfect solution. Already well-known for its high-end floating homes, Waterstudio and Miami-based Arkup are now teaming up with Artefacto, an environmentally friendly Brazilian furnishing brand, to create stylish floating houses that are not only resilient to storms and sea levels, but also represent the luxury style for which Miami is known.

Waterstudio has long been recognized for creating sustainable and attractive floating homes that can provide discerning homeowners with an “avant-garde life on water.” The residences are modern, cube-like structures that are completely self-sufficient, operating 100 percent off-grid thanks to solar power generation, eco-friendly waste management features, rainwater harvesting and water purification systems. Additionally, the homes are equipped with unique self-elevating systems that help the structures withstand high winds, floods and hurricanes.

In addition to the ultra sustainable and resilient features, the two-story floating homes boast interiors with a 775-square-foot living room, bedroom, kitchen and dining space, as well as an open-air rooftop lounge. Sliding glass doors, which almost make up the entirety of the front facade, lead out to a beautiful terrace.

Although the company has been working on its floating homes for some time, it recently announced a new partnership with Artefacto, a Brazilian furnishing company with a strong commitment to sustainability that is known for combining luxurious furniture made of raw materials with cutting-edge smart automation technologies. The floating residences will now be outfitted with eco-friendly furnishings, including high-end pieces made out of timber approved for use by the Brazilian Environment Department.

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Floating homes that can withstand Category 4 hurricanes will soon become a reality

By Aria Bendix
Business Insider
Photo Credits Waterstudio


As Hurricane Florence makes it way across the Carolinas, millions of coastal residents have reason to be concerned about the structural integrity of their homes. Already, nearly 300,000 homes and businesses have lost power, and officials are reporting damage to property in Onslow County, North Carolina.

When Hurricane Harvey swept Texas last September, it damaged more than 204,000 homes and apartment buildings. Around the same time, Hurricane Irma destroyed a quarter of the homes in the Florida Keys, according to federal officials.

While the idea of a hurricane-proof home may sound far-fetched, a housing startup called Arkup has created a residence that can withstand rising sea levels and Category 4 hurricanes. The key lies in its hydraulic while lifting it 40 feet above the ocean floor.

Arkup calls the residences “livable yachts” due to their buoyant nature, which allows them to bob with the water. After debuting the designs in 2017, the company teamed up with The Advantaged Yacht Charters & Sales, the oldest yacht charter company in Miami, to make the structures available for rent and purchase. In August, The Advantaged announced that it isaccepting charter reservations online.

The residences were designed by architect Koen Olthuis, who has pioneered the concept of the floating home.

Each 4,350-square-foot unit contains four bedrooms and four-and-a-half bathrooms.

The retail price for each home is $5 million.

The residences provide 360-degree views of the water.

They also have zero emissions and are powered by solar panels on the roof.

Guests can disconnect from sewage lines, thanks to a system that collects, stores, and purifies rainwater.

The units are just as mobile as a typical yacht.

Even as coastal residents become more fearful of rising sea levels, Olthuis wants cities to see water as an asset, not a challenge, to new construction.

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Waterstudio at BBC


Are floating homes the next frontier for urban design?

Architecture that works with water, rising with floods and sitting upon unused city space, may be the future of urban planning, say these innovative designers.
Buildings and communities that can float on water may be the next step in the evolution of cities, according to some avant-garde housing designers.

Many of the world’s largest cities sit next to, or are built around, large bodies of water. In the light of unprecedented population growth, climate change, flooding and rising sea levels, are floating homes the next frontier in urban living?

Watch the video to see two leading architecture firms describe their innovative concepts for life on water.

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Are These Dutch Floating Homes a Solution for Rising Seas?

By Olga Mecking


Houseboats have long been a common sight near Amsterdam, but a new community may signal a premise that could work elsewhere, too.

Not far from Amsterdam’s Central Station lies IJburg. Hidden in plain view, the city’s newest district is somewhat of an undiscovered secret. In fact, IJburg is known better to the people outside of the country rather than the ones who actually live in the Netherlands.
Moriam Hassan Balogun, who is originally from the United Kingdom, moved there in 2009 and now considers herself an “international local.” She loves IJburg’s family friendly atmosphere, the space, and the many cafes and possibilities for work and leisure. It also attracts many business owners and mostly people with liberal political views.

IJburg is built on four artificial islands that are connected to each other and the rest of the city via bridges. It has around 21,000 inhabitants, the first of whom moved there in early 2002. But the district still isn’t completely built. Though the goal was to finish building IJburg by 2012, that has not happened due to environmental concerns and slow uptake of houses. When finished, it will offer 18,000 homes for 45,000 people and create around 12,000 jobs.

Of late, the islands have been of particular interest to climate change researchers; in particular, the area of Waterbuurt West. There, 120 floating homesteads have been built to deal with Amsterdam’s housing shortage and to prevent the citizens of Amsterdam from moving farther away, to Purmerend or Almere—a phenomenon known as urban sprawl. Living on water is not that surprising in a country that’s surrounded by it. All over the Netherlands, people live on barges or houseboats. But these new houses in IJburg are different because they are very visibly not boats. They are houses.A Dutch saying goes, “God created the world but the Dutch created Holland.” The Netherlands has long been a pioneer in reclaiming land from water, spending centuries drying out the sea to build. That may have been a mistake, says Koen Olthuis, the founder of the Waterstudio in Rijswijk, an architectural bureau specifically devoted to designing buildings on water.

“The Dutch are crazy, that’s fun about the Dutch. We are here now in a part of Holland where we shouldn’t be. It’s man-made,” Olthuis says. A much better solution would be to simply build floating houses, or even whole floating neighborhoods instead.The technology used to build houses on water is not really new. Whatever can be built on land can also be built on water. The only difference between a house on land and a floating house is that the houses on water have concrete “tubs” on the bottom, which are submerged by half a story and act as counter-weight. To prevent them from floating out to sea, they are anchored to the lakebed by mooring poles.

As sea levels are rising globally, many cities around the world are under threat from water. Some areas are projected to disappear completely in the next few decades. Therefore, designing houses to float may, in some instances, be safer than building on land and risking frequent floods. “In a country that’s threatened by water, I’d rather be in a floating house; when the water comes, [it] moves up with the flood and floats,” Olthuis says. He believes that water shouldn’t be considered an obstacle, but rather a new ingredient in the recipe for the city.
Floating houses are not only safer and cheaper, but more sustainable as well. Because such a house could more readily be adapted to existing needs by changing function, or even moving to a whole new location where it can serve as something else, the durability of the building is much improved. Olthuis compares this to a second-hand car: “By having floating buildings, you’re no longer fixed to one location. You can move within the city, or you can move to another city, and let them be used and used again.”

Houses built on land are very static, while on water it’s possible to add, take away, or easily change parts. And communities built on water can be constructed more densely, which would allow for more efficient energy use. Water allows houses (and even whole cities) more flexibility, and, for Olthuis, it’s this characteristic that makes it such a fascinating element.

“In a country that’s threatened by water, I’d rather be in a floating house.”
He sees the use and incorporation of water as the next logical step in the evolution of cities. Cities are not unlike brands, and the ones with a lot of water would be the most flexible, and therefore the most desirable. This branding is already visible in many regions around the world: Think of Los Angeles as the city of movies, New York as the city for writers. Blue cities, or cities that can utilize the water, would also be the cities that would attract residents.

But Olthuis goes one step further. He imagines cities that can quickly change, depending, for example, on the season. In the summer, they could be open to allow the collection of sun energy, and in the winter they could huddle closer together for warmth and energy preservation. He also prefers to talk about functions, or modules, rather than actual buildings.

“In the next city, it’s no longer about what you have; it’s about what you can load. You’re going to load functions to your neighborhood on the water, and if you need new functions, you take them out and you reload them with other profiles,” he imagines. Cities of the future will share certain functions, like, for example, museums, stadiums, or other facilities. “It will be a completely new way of thinking about these [establishments].”

Incorporating water into the cities will also introduce more equality, says Olthuisk, referring to a principle known as “the democracy of water.” In fact, something similar is already happening not just in IJburg but in the whole of the Netherlands, where house owners and social housing recipients share neighborhoods. In IJburg itself, around 30 percent of the houses are earmarked for this very form of government assistance. People of various nations, races, religions, and ethnicities live on the island. “There’s no group that’s more than the other,” Hassan Balogun says. However, the people who move to IJburg tend to be politically similar. “There’s quite a lot of liberal thinkers, very open-minded people here. I think that like seeks like,” she says. The residents of IJburg often vote for D66 and Groenlinks parties, both known for their liberal views and a focus on sustainability.


A floating home in Ijburg. (Margriet Faber/AP)
The inhabitants of IJburg don’t really have the need to leave the island unless they want to. There are plenty of options in that part of the city, including cafes, gyms, yoga studios, and parks. There are also 10 schools. The whole area has an atmosphere of newness, of opportunity.

And this opportunity—the concept of floating houses—could spread to other areas around the world. Due to very strict regulations in the Netherlands, Olthuis is often exporting his ideas abroad, including to China, the United Arab Emirates, India, and the Ukraine. He recognizes that American cities face the same threat towns in the Netherlands did: urban sprawl. “So we have to bring the cities back, make them more compact,” he says. “That’s what I hope that people in the States will learn.”

Floating houses are an idea American cities should consider not just to combat sprawl. Many major cities—like New York, Washington, or Miami—could soon find themselves under water. Olthuis does, however, caution against a Waterworld-like future.He doesn’t believe in cities existing solely on water due to high costs of maintenance and constant energy consumption. He thinks the future lies in already existing cities that use naturally existing water to expand and improve. His hope is that, one day, 10 percent of the Netherlands could become a blue city. But it doesn’t have to stop there. “It’s not only about architecture, it’s not just about having fun in IJburg. It’s about rethinking how we, as communities, want to live in cities.”The city may not be fully built yet, but, given its multi-faceted approach to sustainable urban design, IJburg could be seen as a first step in that direction. At the very least, it is an already existing example for how to successfully integrate water into our cities.

This story originally appeared as “Are the Floating Houses of the Netherlands A Solution Against the Rising Seas” on Pacific Standard, an editorial partner site. Subscribe to the magazine in print and follow Pacific Standard on Twitter to support journalism in the public interest.

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‘Floating Homes’ technology has demonstrated usefulness

By Fane Lozman
Miami Herald



It is an unfortunate reality that those who currently live on Eastern Shores in Maule Lake will have to abandon their homes in the next 30 years because of rising tides. The only residents around Maule Lake will be the Amirillah floating islands, and any new developments built after Miami 21-like building codes are enacted.

The current Eastern Shores residents should be making plans now for where they will be moving once North Miami Beach condemns their residences for sea water intrusion. Instead, their fears are focused on the floating islands and reflect a total lack of knowledge about floating technology that has been proven over the last century.

Just like floating oil rigs moored to the ocean floor survive Category 5 hurricanes without being torn off their moorings, floating islands use similar technology. The land-based houses around Maule Lake would be swept clean off their concrete pads as the eye wall of a hurricane similar to Andrew made a direct hit, while the Maule Lake floating islands wouldn’t slide an inch off their permanent moorings.

Even more impressive is that these foam-cored, reinforced concrete islands are unsinkable, even after being pelted with 200-mph, windswept debris from the destroyed houses on shore.

The West Coast of the United States has thousands of floating homes that are a welcome addition to their communities in Washington, Oregon and California. The Maule Lake floating-island residences will introduce a new generation of floating homes to the East Coast. They will be completely self-sustaining and have the “greenest” footprint of any dwelling in South Florida.

The landlubbers whose attitude is that “I got to Maule Lake first and no one else should ever join me” forget one thing. The actual lake bottom is privately owned, and the submerged lands do not belong to those who are fortunate to live on its borders. Perhaps a 50-foot-high floating privacy screen running on the east side of Maule Lake would be soothing to these residents so they would not have to be jealous of their floating neighbors?

The floating islands will also help solve a simple reality that the political leaders of North Miami Beach can no longer ignore: New sources of tax revenue will be desperately needed to supplement the hidden pension demands of civil employees (i.e. police) over the coming years.

The 29 floating islands that will be assessed at $12.5 million each will bring in a staggering $363 million in new property assessments. This windfall for the city will be further magnified by the increased tax assessments for the Eastern Shores residents as their droopy neighborhood wakes up to become part of South Florida’s most unique residential community.

Like any new technology, whether it was the Wright brothers’ first airplane flight, or the $3 billon Perdido oil rig anchored in 2,438 meters of water in the Gulf of Mexico, there are “talking heads” that will refuse to accept the inevitable march of technology. It makes one wonder: How many Eastern Shores residents still have horse and buggies in their back yards?


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Architects’ Answer to Rising Seas: Floating Homes, abc NEWS

abc NEWS, AP Associated press, Denis D.Gray, Apr 2012

BANGKOK (AP) — A floating mosque and golf course for the submerging Maldives islands. Amphibious homes in the Netherlands lifted to safety as waters surge beneath them. A hospital perched on 400 stilts to protect patients from Thailand’s devastating floods and the encroaching sea.

Around the world, architects and city planners are exploring ways mankind and water may be able to coexist as oceans rise and other phenomenon induced by climate change, including extreme, erratic floods, threaten land-rooted living.

With the Dutch at the helm, projects in the cutting-edge field of aqua-architecture are already in place, including a maritime housing estate, floating prison and greenhouses in the Netherlands. An increasing number are coming on stream, and while earlier blueprints appeared to be the stuff of science fiction, advocates say leaps of imagination are still needed given the magnitude of the danger.

“The focus on floating solutions has grown enormously. It has shifted from freak architecture to more sustainable, flexible alternatives,” says Dutch architect Koen Olthuis, citing growing support by governments and interest among private investors in Asia and Russia.

“We will have to live with a more watery environment. There is no choice,” says Danai Thaitakoo, a Thai landscape architect whose own Bangkok house was swamped last year as the country suffered its worst floods of modern times.

The Thai capital is also among the mega coastal cities projected by the end of this century to lie totally or partially under water as global warming boosts sea levels, according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Others include Tokyo, London, Jakarta, Sydney and Shanghai — an apocalyptic prospect of mass migrations and economic crises.

While in earlier decades architects and planners, particularly Japanese and Americans, dreamed of entire marine cities housing millions, most today are proposing a mix of defending communities with barriers and building on water using floating platforms, raised or amphibious structures and solutions still being devised.

“Climate change will require a radical shift within design practice from the solid-state view of landscape urbanism to the more dynamic, liquid-state view of waterscape urbanism,” says Danai, who is involved in several projects based on this principle. “Instead of embodying permanence, solidity and longevity, liquid perception will emphasize change, adaptation.”

In a study for low-lying New York, Olthuis says he envisioned Manhattan ringed by a sea wall with outlying boroughs allowing water to enter and adapting. The world’s Londons and Bangkoks, he says, may become “hydro-cities,” their historic hearts and concentrated core development waterproofed and other areas “going with the flow.”

The Netherlands, a third of which lies below sea level, has been managing water since the Middle Ages and is thus a pioneer in the field. It has exported its expertise to Indonesia, China, Thailand, Dubai and the Republic of the Maldives, an Indian Ocean archipelago that with a maximum elevation of about 2 meters (8 feet) is the world’s lowest country. The sea-battered city of New Orleans has also sought advice from Olthuis’s Waterstudio.

In the Maldives, Waterstudio has designed a network of floating islands, the first to be put in place next year, to accommodate hotels, a convention center, yacht club and villas. The “islands,” secured by steel cables, are made up of pontoons with a foam core encased in concrete that can be joined together like Lego blocks. An 18-hole golf course will also be set on such platforms, each with two to three holes, connected by underwater tunnels. The $500 million project, paid for by the Maldivian government and private investors, is slated for completion in 2015.

A floating mosque, originally destined for Dubai before an economic downturn hit, is also part of the master plan, Olthuis said in an interview.

Following the principles of “water will always find its way” and “collaborating with nature,” the Dutch have reversed some of their earlier strategy of tightly defending their land with dikes by allowing the sea to penetrate some areas on which housing has been constructed.

One pioneering effort was the placement of amphibious and floating homes on the River Maas in 2005. All survived major 2011 floods that forced the evacuation of villages along rain-swollen rivers.

Construction recently began on the Olthuis-designed New Water estate, 600 homes and a luxury apartment complex on land purposely inundated. Interest in water-based living and work space has accelerated over the past decade, he says, and Waterstudio’s drawing boards are stacked with plans for local and international projects.

Typical amphibious houses, like the two-story ones on the Maas, consist of a structure that slides into a steel framework over a hollow foundation which, like the hull of a ship, buoys up the building when water enters.

The Maas houses sell from $310,000, about 25 percent more than equivalent homes, in part due to the cost of connecting them to utilities and drainage. But Olthuis says such linkages are simple and present no inconvenience to owners.

“Just proven technology of plug-and-play systems. All tested and used for years in Holland,” he says.

“The only time you will see a difference between a floating house and the traditional one is during floods — when your house rises above the water and your neighbor’s stays put,” Olthuis says.

Along similar lines will be Britain’s first amphibious house, recently granted planning permission along the banks of the Thames River in Buckinghamshire. The 225-square-meter (2,421-square-foot) home will be able to rise to 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) in the event of flooding.

Thai architect Chutayaves Sinthuphan, who will be unveiling a pilot amphibious house for the Thai government in September, says interest in such projects has grown since last year’s floods, which killed more than 600 people and affected more than a fifth of the country’s 64 million people.

“We have had proposals out for some time, but nobody paid much attention to them until the floods came,” he says.

His Site-Specific Company has already built such houses for private clients, using modern techniques and materials but like other architects in Asia looking to a past when communities adapted well to annual monsoon season inundations.

They point to a riverside village in the southern province of Surat Thani, where everyone lived on homes atop bamboo rafts until all but three families moved on land. Those three homes were the only ones that survived last year’s floods.

In the mid-19th century, almost all of Bangkok lived on houses built atop stilts or rafts. Since then, most canals have been paved over and the stilt houses replaced by a concrete urbanscape that holds back water instead of allowing it to flow through.

Architect Prisdha Jumsai has borrowed from traditional methods to design Thailand’s first hospital for the aged. Work has begun on the 300-bed hospital over a permanently flooded area near Bangkok that is also subject to tides from the nearby Gulf of Thailand. Concrete stilts will raise its first floor about 4 meters (13 feet) above average water levels.

“We hope this will influence people not to just fill in land but to build on water. I think it will open up new ideas for Thais who can look to traditional architecture and make it more up-to-date in design,” Prisdha says.

But this still appears to be a minority view.

“Most Thais look to Western, land-based models and most architects still don’t talk about environmental concerns. They talk about how a house will look and make you feel good,” says Danai. “But this will have to change. It’s about survival.”

Associated Press writer Mike Corder in The Hague contributed to this story.

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