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Waterloo logo horizontal-4UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO FACULTY OF ENGINEERING ANNUAL REPORT

Elizabeth English has designed a foundation that can float a house. She wants to use it to help rebuild New Orleans.

Usually, houses in low-lying areas are raised to protect them from floods. But a house on stilts can be hard to live in, and stilts don't always work. "Even if you do put the house on eight-foot stilts, you might have a 10-foot flood, Elizabeth notes.

Elizabeth has degrees in both architecture and civil engineering. She brought these backgrounds together to design a foundation with a lightweight steel frame for strength and coated Styrofoam for buoyancy. "The foundation is designed to go under an existing house," says English. "It leaves the house looking the same. New Orleans has whole neighbourhoods of perfectly recoverable houses where this system could be used."

Her prototype house is already up and floating. "We've basically got it worked out," she says. "It just makes so much sense. Trying to fight floodwater is a losing battle. It's better to work with it and let the floodwater keep your house up."