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FLOATEC project develops new floating house technology for low-lying countries

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September 1, 2011

How a future 'floating city' might look thanks to technology developed in the FLOATEC proj...

How a future 'floating city' might look thanks to technology developed in the FLOATEC project

Venice may soon be sharing its "Floating City" moniker thanks to a research project developing "amphibian houses" that are designed to float in the event of a flood. The FLOATEC project sees the primary market for the houses as the Netherlands, whose low-lying land makes it particularly susceptible to the effects of rising sea levels. Such housing technology could also allow small island-states in the Indian and Pacific Oceans that are at the risk of disappearing in the next 100 years to maintain their claim to statehood through the use of artificial, floating structures.

The lead research partner in the FLOATEC project is Dura Vermeer, a Dutch company that over the past 12 years has become a market leader in the floating building market. Although it might seem difficult, Dura Vermeer's Edwin Blom says building a floating house is actually a relatively easy construction process. As you might expect, the secret lies in the foundations, which are made up of multiple layers of light plastic foam supporting the concrete, allowing it to float.

However, the technology used up until now has had limitations as there is a maximum size and weight beyond which a structure loses its buoyancy and simply sinks. To solve this problem Dura Vermeer teamed up with Spanish company, Acciona Infrastructures, and a Spanish engineering consultancy, Solintel, to develop a new way to build floating structures that were simpler, more solid and used lighter materials.

The new building method they developed uses expanded polystyrene (EPS), which Blon says is, "the same kind as is used for packaging and which people are familiar with: little white balls glued together." This modified polystyrene is inserted in multiple layers in between stratums of composite and concrete and divided into beam-like modules that can easily be assembled into a bigger supporting structure a bit like building blocks. The modules are arranged in a floating grid into which the concrete is cast.

Blom says that although the new technology is more advanced than traditional methods, it is still much cheaper as there is a reduction in the amount of material used. "Smaller blocks can now support bigger structures and, in the end, the cost of the whole building is reduced," he said.

FLOATEC is a European R&D project underwritten by EUREKA, an intergovernmental network established to support market-oriented R&D and innovation projects by industry, research centers and universities across all technological sectors.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
10 Comments

I can't think of a location where this proposal makes sense.

Utilities (sewer, water, electric), Roads Transportation (how do you get stuff into and out of the units / or general area), and wind storms, or when the water freezes.

In an area with frequent flooding, homes on stilts would be the way to go, open area underneath and attached floating platform or floating garage for storage of vehicles during flood periods. Both floating and stilts better suited to low density in any case, if the are used something like single family homes.

I just don't get it. Some google hits of floating homes that since they exist (or are well underway), they are somewhat workable in their environments, though they may

be more expensive, and less convenient, on a routine basis than some nearby alternatives.

http://rivercitiescondos.com/

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/04/garden/04waterpod.html

http://oldsalt1942.wordpress.com/2009/04/24/houseboat-vs-shanty-boat-vs-floating-home/

Dave B13
1st September, 2011 @ 01:38 pm PDT

I tend to agree.

If you are worried about your island nation being inundated when sea levels rise, you'd be better off raising your buildings on stilts or piling up mounds of rocks and back filling with sand. A floating building, beyond a basic houseboat seems a little awkward. Sea level rises aren't like Noah's flood, it will be more like your dry house is now sitting in a foot of water (assuming the Maldives or pacific islands). No worries. Your bottom floor is now your foundation, just stick a bunch of columns down there and 1st floor is now ground floor. Easy.

Scion
2nd September, 2011 @ 12:41 am PDT

In the Netherlands any floating house needs to be able to weather the storm that either broke or over-topped the dikes. I'm not apposed to ground floor doors, and windows, but they better be able to survive being hit by waves, and be seriously well balanced otherwise your better off in a firmly planted building tall enough to keep your head above water.

Slowburn
2nd September, 2011 @ 01:25 am PDT

Being from New Orleans,

I can say that levees can be a real disappointment.

I don't think this is intended to be an overnight replacement,

it seems to be more of an immediate alternative with long term

(100 year)potential for expansion&growth.

As for septic/water/electric/materials,

those are not any more difficult than the MASSIVE problems facing many cities concerning issues of decay,

landfill overload and insufficient water.

Couplings can be flexible and I personally believe that technology has enabled people to overpopulate areas such as Southern California in entirely unbearable amounts.

Phoenix and SoCal are fighting over the Colorado River,

the Salton Sea is a runaway nightmare and meanwhile the Ural Sea is lying in wasted ruins on account of the similar abuses of water and irrigation.

My point is that more responsible management of resources,

(both public and private)

personal alternative energy&composting/incinerating toilets 

are essential to the future well-being of man&planet.

I would assert that more efficient/effective personal dwellings/places of business are definitely part of the answer.

Blind,mindless mass expansion of metropolitan areas is a huge part of the problem.

The Southern California area was virtually uninhabited 111 years ago.

If the water/electric/septic/trash services all

were temporarily disabled,

what would happen?

Remember:

New Orleans was largely evacuated when the levees failed.

Even if you had the warning and the willingness to evacuate SoCal,where would everybody go?

In summary,

I am simply saying that utter mass dependence on central services and distribution with no contingency plan is neither safe,healthy nor advisable-

in good times or bad.

More personal responsibility and less dependence on central services is better all the way around.

This is not an overnight proposition neither,on a personal note,

do I think that it should it be done for the lazy or the parasitic.

HOWEVER-

if smaller remote "island nations" rise to the challenge,

maybe they can learn from the larger over-populated/overindustrialized population centers and pursue a more balanced sustainable manner of living that is more in harmony with their surroundings.

Maybe we can all learn something and not just have to find out the hard way-

before it's too late.

Griffin
2nd September, 2011 @ 11:48 am PDT

It makes a lot of sense to rebuild using technologies that will defeat the environmental problems that put those properties and people at risk.THAT should be the way the new architecture progresses.

Carlos Grados
2nd September, 2011 @ 04:00 pm PDT

The problem i see with buildings designed to float during a flood, is that floods can have fast flow rates and try to take your house down stream. This product seems to assume that the water will be fairly stagnant or slow flowing which may not be the case, depending on the flooded area in question.

To make this idea viable, you need:

- every house designed to float

- each house with an emergency boat to get around in

- floating shops (for food)

- floating usable gas/petrol stations to keep boats and generators running

- a slow flow rate of water in and around your area

- good re-supply for shops,fuel stations

- sewage and clean water delivery system that works during floods

Oztechi
5th September, 2011 @ 05:49 am PDT

Boats on Rivers used to be the original freeways. Boats on Oceans enabled mankind to settle on 6 out of 7 continents before the invention of the automobile.

Having said that- electricity, clean water, and sewage are all the same problem that can be fixed with a simple room in the house that is a biomass digester combined with a Honda 5kw multifuel compressed gas generator.

Add a small rubber raft with an electric engine, and your emergency transportation is assured.

Theodore M. Seeber
5th September, 2011 @ 10:28 am PDT

Hmm... The seasteading institute might be interested in this kind of stuff:

http://seasteading.org/

Jeff Wilson
5th September, 2011 @ 02:48 pm PDT

So who wants to get a major fine for presenting a hazard to navigation by operating an unregistered vessel? Could get very expensive the way they enforce some laws today...

Ron Robinson
5th September, 2011 @ 09:12 pm PDT

Good project only on paper but can never work.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Anumakonda Jagadeesh
6th September, 2011 @ 11:20 am PDT
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