Amphibious Architecture: Is it an Advantage for Architecture Industry?


Building Resilience: The Advantage of Amphibious Architecture

Why is Amphibious Architecture a thought/necessity?

Floods are one of the most serious risks to humanity and their habitat as a result of climate change and unusual events. The cost caused by such a flood scenario is huge, both economically and in terms of human life lost owing to a lack of facilities for giving shelter to individuals in a short amount of time. Architects, Engineers, Designers, Researchers, and Professionals came together for the first time to discuss Amphibious Architecture at the first International Conference on Amphibious Architecture Design and Engineering.

They established and discussed the new paradigm of life on the water using their skills and experience. This was the first conference to create awareness for innovation to adapt to rapid climate change, examining the various causes of flood occurrence and flood scenarios, with some claiming that it was due to melting snow and hence rising sea level.

Definition of Amphibious Architecture

As the name implies, pertaining to living on both land and water, and specifically describes architecture as the architectural form adapting to dry and wet circumstances without creating any type of damage during or after the flood. Hence, it is known as an alternative option for flood mitigation, as it allows the normal structure to float on water.

The structure’s foundation is attached to the ground according to the site’s condition and terrain, but it still allows the home to move freely vertically during times of flooding. The buoyancy principle is utilized, which is installed beneath the home and displaces the water as needed to produce flotation, and the vertical guidance system permits the house to move freely vertically at times of flooding. The vertical guidance system enables the rising and falling house to return to the same location by using the principle of buoyancy, which is installed beneath the house and moves the water to give floatation as needed. 

Different solutions for amphibious foundations are employed in various places of the world. From low-cost DIY solutions devised by the residents of Old River Landing, Louisiana, to more complicated designs by specialists that incorporate the floating foundation and vertical guidance system into the structure’s design.

One of the many hybrid scenarios is this type of construction. As an illustration, the building is sustained in part by both land and water. Another illustration would be the temporary lifting of the structure using hydraulic or mechanical jacks. Another illustration is waterproofing.

Designing such structures requires the concept of land use planning, site selection, and community resilience issues such as the place of amphibious buildings in multi-lines-of-defense systems and policy considerations. 

Buoyant Foundation

The construction is retrofitted through the existing structure’s foundation, allowing the superstructure to continue floating on water as high as necessary during floods while the ground conditions remained the same.

The system consists of three fundamental components: vertical guideposts that prohibit the home from only moving vertically and nothing else, buoyancy blocks beneath the house that give flotation, and a sub-frame that holds everything together. Utility lines with self-sealing couplings are also available. The entire cost would be reduced and the dwellings with such a technology could be readily lifted from the amphibious ground.


The construction of such structures has a few benefits over traditional constructions. Here are a handful of those mentioned: –

Performance: While an amphibious house may adapt to shifting flood levels by ascending as the water rises, a house with a fixed structure will be negatively impacted by the rising water level. If growth in the flood depth could be foreseen far in advance, the upward posts could be expanded with ease.

Economic Benefits: Adding an additional framework would be expensive and necessary for conventional buildings, but amphibious development retrofitting gives large cost savings over the long-term static rise. The house with amphibious development has a lower risk of damage in cases of heavy flooding.

Social Advantage: The option of changing the height puts such types of structures at an advantage. They will give residences to eliminate their inhabitants from road level. 

A City Moving Toward Amphibious Architecture

With two-thirds of its territory below sea level, the Netherlands is taking the necessary measures to achieve amphibious architecture. The government adopted this concept and permitted building industry experimentation, which led to the development of projects like Maasbommel.

Zevenbergen, a co-organizer of ICAADE, participated in this project in which 34 amphibious homes were built outside of a dyke where the river level fluctuates frequently. Another project involved converting the existing buildings in the flood-prone area to amphibious architecture in New Orleans, where Elizabeth English was also a co-organizer of ICAADE.

However, amphibious structures don’t just refer to those that can float; they also include dry-proof and wet-proof ones that can adapt to the environment. Buildings that are dry-proof are created or modified to keep water from entering them during a flood. Additionally, water can infiltrate wet-proof structures, which also make it possible to leave the building quickly and damage-free.

James Davidson Architect Designs floating device for Queenslander

Australian architect James Davidson uses an architecture approach of permeability and flood-resistant materials to design wet-proof structures. Queenslander house would float using Pontoon device.

Amphibious Architecture

The system was modeled by the vertical posts used to support Queenslander architecture. Vertical columns that cross the building’s wall framework are used to propel the pontoon. The top floor rises together with the floodwater because it is connected to a coupling system that uses the column as a guide. The height can rise depending on how tall the pylons are.

The Australian Height Datum, however, continues to rise. It was about 8.5 meters in 2011 but rose to 9.5 meters in 2014. When Davidson was asked to host an international conference on amphibious architecture in Bangkok in 2015, he recognized that his work with wet-proofing and pontoon buildings could be combined to offer a solution for homes that are prone to flooding. They created pontoon constructions by collaborating with Westera Partners Engineer Josh Neale.

 The pontoon structure used to float Queenslander  

Projects Done By Bouyant Foundation 

Amphibious Retrofitting in Mekong River Delta, Vietnam 

The atypical elevating homes on their sites is a common procedure in this area for retrofitting. These retrofits are practical, preventative responses to the risks posed by yearly flooding incidents. They also act as trials and data sources that may be used to strengthen this foundation system and spread this approach throughout Southeast Asia as proof of concept.

Waterloo, Ontario: NRC Pavilion  

The goal of this project was to create a flood-resistant dwelling prototype. The Canadian National Research Council provided the funding. The project was broken up and carried out in three distinct stages:

At the University of Waterloo, 

Phase 1: Entails designing, building, and installing a floating pavilion atop a stormwater retention pond.

Phase 2: Create a prototype retrofit by designing and building it.

Phase 3: Creating design standards for Canadian amphibious retrofit construction as a first step toward having it included in the national building code.

 NRC Research Pavilion  


It is time to start planning and thinking about the metropolitan areas that will contain the facility where during a flooding crisis the people, as well as their homes, might be preserved, as the climate is obviously changing day by day and floods are the most increasing phenomenon.

This idea of amphibious construction is neither novel nor particularly inventive; people have always learned how to defend themselves and their homes from floods. We are fortunate to live in a time when modern technology and quick computers allow us to quickly identify and fix our faults without having to spend a lot of money.

Future sea level rise is a given, and while there are various solutions, I believe amphibious architecture focuses on the during and post scenario of individual units rather than the system as a whole. Therefore, when these two ideas are combined, both on an individual level and overall, ideas like sponge city can play a significant role.

To conclude, I’d like to mention that one of an architect’s responsibilities is to improve people’s lives, and that experimentation comes naturally to us.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *