Increased flooding is rapidly creating a global crisis. Catalyzed by climate change and unwise development, floods undermine vulnerable communities’ social and economic stability.
The Buoyant Foundation Project is a nonprofit research organization dedicated to the development of retrofit amphibious foundation systems. This is a low-cost flood risk reduction and climate change adaptation strategy that respects local knowledge and cultural practices and supports the preservation of traditional housing forms. Buoyant foundations function passively by floating a structure safely on rising flood water and then returning it to its exact original position as flooding subsides. A buoyancy system installed beneath the building displaces water to provide flotation, while a vertical guidance system prevents any lateral movement. This simple, earth-friendly approach works in synchrony with natural flood cycles rather than trying to exert control over the forces of nature.
In the summer of 2018, our joint Canadian-Vietnamese team completed amphibious retrofits of four homes in two rice-farming communities in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, where livelihoods are being disrupted by worsening flooding. We consulted with local villagers and carpenters to select inexpensive and recycled materials for the retrofits. Constructing these prototypes provided an educational opportunity to begin teaching local residents how to scale and replicate this solution themselves in the future.
These amphibious retrofits dramatically improve the lives of homeowners and their families, who no longer need worry about facing the costly process of rebuilding that depletes the resources they would otherwise have for education and healthcare. The retrofits serve social justice and enhance community resilience by allowing at-risk households to remain safely in place during floods, providing them with greater opportunity to pursue their daily economic activities without social and physical disruption. They are a first example of the possibilities of amphibious architecture to become a powerful force for good in vulnerable communities worldwide.
Credits: Truoc Van Nguyen , Teresa Tran University of Waterloo, Tien Duy Pham An Giang University, Elizabeth English University of Waterloo, Thanh Tran University of Waterloo
Credits: - University of Waterloo - Undergraduate Research Assistant - Thanh Tran - University of Waterloo - Graduate Research Assistant - Teresa Tran - An Giang University - Project Manager - Tien Duy Pham - Master Carpenter - Truoc Van Nguyen - University of Waterloo - Associate Professor - Elizabeth English