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Why use buoyant foundations?

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, homeowners in low-lying areas of South Louisiana are facing the issue of elevating their houses to comply with the new Base Flood Elevation (BFE) requirements. Furthermore, many New Orleanians who are not required to elevate their houses remain concerned about their safety in the absence of substantially improved levees.

Problems with permanent static elevation

  • Permanent static elevation is much more expensive
  • Access is difficult, especially for the elderly & disabled
  • Greater risk of wind damage in a future hurricane
  • Creates gap-toothed effect in the neighborhood
  • Homes lose relationship to the street
  • Loss of neighborhood character

Advantages of buoyant foundations

  • Retrofit for existing shotgun houses
  • Less expensive than elevating on stilts
  • Less susceptible to hurricane and wind damage
  • Structures remain low to ground except during flood
  • Elevates house to exactly what is required to stay above water
  • Alleviates problem of subsidence and rising sea level
  • Looks essentially the same as before Katrina
  • Original traditional architecture is preserved
  • Neighborhood retains original character

Float When It Floods

There are existing precedents of cost-effective amphibious houses, or houses that normally rest on the ground but float on buoyant foundations during a flood, both abroad in the Netherlands and at home along the rivers and bayous of South Louisiana. Why not capitalize on the advantages of buoyant foundations in the rebuilding of New Orleans and flood-prone areas throughout South Louisiana?

Rebuild Safely

Permanently elevating houses, in some areas by as much as 12-15 feet, may be a solution to the problem of flooding but it creates new problems, such as difficult access to living areas, loss of neighborhood character and increased vulnerability of the structure to wind damage. With permanent static elevation, even if a house is raised to the BFE or higher, it can still flood in an extreme event. In the meantime, residents must live with daily inconvenience and a reduced quality of life in the hope of avoiding flooding in a future event that is statistically very rare indeed. A look at floating docks and houseboats suggests that there may be an alternative approach, one that would allow the house to remain close to the ground under normal conditions but rise as much as necessary, even above the BFE, when flooding occurs.

 
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