Elizabeth English, associate professor at the LSU Hurricane Center, has found a simple and surprisingly affordable way for people to protect their homes against the dangers of flooding in New Orleans. It's based on a concept called buoyant foundations, an idea as simple as making a house float.

English, working with a team of senior mechanical engineering students, is devising a way to retrofit houses with a flotation system that will keep them above water in a flood. Similar devices are already in use along the banks of the Raccourci Old River right here in Louisiana and as far away as the Netherlands and southeast Asia.

But English's 'amphibious' foundation system is unique. It is designed to be used for retrofitting existing houses, such as the 'shotgun' style homes that are so plentiful in New Orleans. The design will be engineered to satisfy new building codes. It avoids many of the disadvantages that come with the more traditional method of elevating a house by lifting it high above the ground.

'There are so many issues, both obvious and not so apparent, that come with permanently elevating homes,' said English. Among them are significant expense and increased risk of wind damage, and such social issues as lack of convenience and accessibility, the loss of neighborhood character and the appearance of the structure if it were to be raised on stilts.

A home equipped with a buoyant foundation will remain low to the ground unless a flood occurs, in which case the house will rise as high as necessary to stay dry. Special flexible utility lines
accommodate the change in elevation. Then, the house simply floats until the water recedes, with a vertical guidance system keeping it in place. And, when there is no flooding, the house looks
essentially the same as it did before being retrofitted with a buoyant foundation.

English's team hopes to secure enough funding to develop and begin testing a prototype as early as December of this year. They've recently received a donation of $2,500 from Innovative Technologies Group, or ITG, from West Virginia, but they're in need of approximately $150,000 to support the project through completion.
-LSU News
Ashley Berthelot