College Assignment Turns into Floating Houses Project

Houses that float when floods send high water? Houses on stilts are a familiar site along rivers and other waterways. Give the stilts the ability to telescopically rise and add a foam foundation and you’ve got a house that floats.

Six Louisiana State University (LSU) students formed the non-profit Buoyant Foundation and are seeking research funding and grant money to build a prototype of their invention. They’ll also be building a tank to test the prototype in. The students’ buoyant home design can be retro-fitted to existing homes and holds promise for housing in flood prone areas.

Louisiana isn’t a stranger to floating homes. The bayous of the state are flanked by floating hunting and fishing lodges. Buoyant homes are available in the Netherlands.

The Buoyant Foundation’s buoyant home idea would benefit Louisiana home owners in several ways. Floating homes can withstand rough weather better than traditional homes or homes on stilts.

Homeowners could still sit on the front porch and visit with neighbors, something that’s hard to do when the porch is on stilts. The appearance and normal elevation of the house would not change with the addition of the buoyant design.

One innovation LSU students added to their buoyant home was the breakaway type connection for utilities. Plumbers are familiar with breakaway valves. The valves are available in other applications. This is the first time they’ve been integrated into home design in this way.

The concept of the breakaway connection for buoyant homes is the same as that for plumbing. The breakaway connections make it possible for utility connections to move with the home, breaking off at specific heights and forces.

The Buoyant Foundation design would turn houses into houseboats on floating foam docks. The system would allow houses to rise to the necessary elevation. Big blocks of plastic foam keep houses afloat. The weight of the house is distributed to outside walls via steel frames.

The LSU students are seeking to raise approximately $150,000 to build a prototype buoyant house and a tank for testing the house. If the prototype works as well as expected, New Orleans would be a great location to start using it in.

The estimated cost of retro-fitting existing homes is $20,000 to $30,000. The homes wouldn’t look any different. They’d just be outfitted to deal with rising flood waters and wind forces.

LSU students involved in the creation of the buoyant house were just completing an assignment. This is certainly one occasion when doing a homework assignment worked out well.

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