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Published On: Thu, Mar 23rd, 2017

Flood Proof Houses: Myth versus Reality

If you want to keep a house from flooding, you have to keep it out of the water. As climate change causes sea levels to rise and flooding to increase, methods for dealing with flooding are getting a lot of interest. We’re pretty good at channeling water away, but larger sewers and drains will only take you so far. One of the oldest methods of home construction could provide an answer: pile building.

A pile is any vertical element driven into the earth and used to support a structure. If you’ve ever seen a house built on stilts or raised high on piles of stones, you’ve seen examples of this kind of building. Pile foundations are prehistoric technology and have been found around the world. They serve two main purposes. One, they allow flood waters to run under the house with little harm. Two, they make it more difficult for vermin to climb up and invade the home.

It may seem hard to imagine but the great buildings of Venice are all supported by wooden timbers underneath the water. Every square meter has about nine piles driven into the mud and sand until they hit firm clay. The piles were leveled off and a wood floor was installed over them to form the foundation for the famous marble buildings.

photo supplied, courtesy of guest blogging network

There are two reasons why the wood hasn’t rotted away. First, the Venice Lagoon doesn’t have enough oxygen to make the rotting process happen. Second, the mineral rich waters have turned the wood of the piles into petrified pieces of wood. Rotting wood is one of the big reasons why building on top of wood piles isn’t popular here. But in places with a lot of flooding or with very unstable ground like tropical beaches, building on piles is a must. It’s also a necessity in areas of permafrost where the heat of a floor would melt the ground and cause the soil to subside rapidly.

The other method of keeping a house safe is to make it float. Houseboats have been around for some time, but there are new investigations on how to create floating buildings in the Netherlands. Most of the Netherlands is below sea level and some areas regularly flood. It’s been getting worse since sea levels have risen and it’s difficult to build higher sea walls (but they do it). But a new form of amphibious building is getting a test run and could grow in popularity.

The basements of these new amphibious buildings are made of metal and built in similar fashion to how a ship is built. These basement hulls allow the buildings to float. To prevent them from drifting away, the buildings are attached to two metal piles that allow the house to rise and fall. These piles and the connections are made quite sturdy to be able to resist the flow of floodwater.

If people want to continue living in coastal areas despite the damage that water causes and costly water damage restoration every time, amphibious buildings and pile foundations may be the best way to stay in the area in the face of global sea level rise.

Author: Sophia Moore

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- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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