Britain's first floodproof ark house

Britain’s first amphibious house, with normal foundations and yet capable of floating on rising floodwaters, is to be built beside the Thames.
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The three-bedroom family home is being billed as an innovative architectural response to global warming and the increasing threat of flooding across huge swathes of London and the South East.

Recent Government figures suggest up to 750,000 homes in the south east are at risk of flooding - and this does not include new the tens of thousands of new homes planned in the Thames Gateway area.

The ark-like house will be built just 10 metres from the river’s edge in a spot where conventional new-builds are now banned, and will replace a dilapidated bungalow close to Marlow in Buckinghamshire, a popular commuter town.

It will be built of lightweight timber and in normal conditions it will sit upon conventional foundations. But if the site is flooded the house will rise and float upon the floodwaters, moored into place by permanent vertical guideposts.

High Wycombe District Council and the Environment Agency, which monitors building close to the banks of the Thames, have both approved the project and work is due to start this summer.

Richard Coutts, a director of Baca Architects, which designed the house, said: “The site is on the flood plain and so it is very likely that during the lifetime of the house the site will flood.

“The house has been very carefully designed. It will rise very, very slowly. It will glide up into position and you will not feel it bobbing around because in the foundation unit there is a series of ballast units which means that the building will self-correct.”

The owners of the site were forced to consider the amphibious option when they decided to rebuild the bungalow because Environment Agency rules prevent building conventional homes so close to the water’s edge.

They had a choice of building a house on “stilts”, raised up 1.8 metres from the ground, or creating the UK’s first amphibious home. The technique has already been used in flood-prone Holland where Baca Architects is currently involved in a development of 200 amphibious houses.

Coutts said that the build cost would be up to 25 per cent more than creating a conventional home of the same size but pointed out that the cost pales into insignificance when compared to the devastation a flood can wreak.

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