10/29/2014 08:00 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Floating Homes (And The Future, Apparently) Are Here

When UK design firm Baca Architects submitted their plans for a floating home on a small island in the River Thames, the response they got was, understandably, confusion.

"The local planning authority and the Environment Agency had never seen or heard of an amphibious house before," Ruth Deans, who handles press inquiries for Baca, told The Huffington Post. "We had to work particularly hard to convince them that it would work here, which involved a lot of reports and detailed documentation."

By some estimates, however, Baca's concept for a house that would rise up off of its foundation and float in the event of a flood, wasn't really that far-fetched. "Thanks to climate change, some of the world's rainiest places are likely to get rainier -- and more likely to flood," writes Fast Company's Adele Peters. Case in point: The town of Marlow, a flood zone, where Baca's "Formosa" home is being built.

As Peters explains, "the three-story house, made from lightweight timber, sits on a floating concrete hull. When the river floods, the house is designed to rise up in its dock, held in place by guideposts at each side."

Check out a video of how the home works below.

floating house

But homes like this aren't designed as much to protect against water as to make space for it, Deans explains -- an approach known as aquatecture that aims to create homes in flood-risk areas where water can be used "to enhance the architecture and design."

At Formosa, for example, "the garden design... will provide an early warning system for the owners about the speed and depth of the rising water. The whole build is sustainable, from the specially-treated timber frame (to prevent wood rot) to the environmentally-friendly materials used throughout," Deans says. "The flexible pipes, for the utilities, are designed to extend up to 3m, allowing all of the services to remain clean and operational during any flood... and to allow the occupants to return to the property immediately after a flood."

floating house

floating house

We were curious whether Baca's amphibious home technology could be employed in areas where flood-prone homes are traditionally built on stilts, but according to Deans, retrofitting an existing home with "dolphins" or guide posts that keep it from floating away, would be an almost impossible feat. "You would need to move the whole house to excavate the basement/dock below it," she says.

Formosa, which has taken roughly 18 months to build, is slated for completion by mid-December.

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