Vietnam: Amphibiation in the Mekong River delta

The Buoyant Foundation Project has retrofitted four houses in the Mekong River delta, Vietnam, as a supplementary system to the vernacular practice of elevating houses on stilts. This practice is a traditional response to the annual flooding cycle that is inseparable from the geographic location, but, given exaggerated flooding which is predicted to occur due to climate change, the practice does not adapt well to increased flood heights. These retrofits are thus means to provide flood resilience to the physical architecture and the possessions of these individuals, and to provide protection from what might otherwise be catastrophic and traumatic disruptions to these communities, these families, their localized culture and their economic stability, in the face of climate uncertainty.

But not only are these retrofits effective, preemptive resolutions to the dangers posed by annual flooding events in the region to impoverished and vulnerable communities, they also serve as a proof-of-concept, as experiments and sources of data, which might provide the basis for the improvement of this foundation system and for the propagation of this strategy throughout south-east Asia.

This project was carried out with support from the Global Resilience Partnership and the Zurich Insurance Group

Waterloo, Ontario: NRC Research Pavilion

The NRC floating research pavilion, to be installed in the water at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada, aims to provide data that can be the groundwork for research into the efficacy and reliability of the buoyant foundation system when subject to freeze-thaw cycles. This would establish a precedent for upcoming retrofits to homes in flood-prone indigenous and cottage communities in Ontario.

In the face of climate change, the NRC pavilion can provide valuable data that can help establish meaningful and effective flood-resiliency strategies to vulnerable first-nations communities in Canada, empowering them by greatly reducing recovery time and costs, reducing the impact on community cohesion and culture, and by largely eliminating the need for resettlement.

This work was carried out with the support of a grant from the National Research Council of Canada

Jamaica: Port Maria and Bliss Pastures

2015 Numerous low-income areas of Jamaica are subject to severe repetitive seasonal flooding. Lacking adequate government support, these communities require a flood mitigation strategy that is both affordable and simple to implement.

The communities of Port Maria and Bliss Pastures, Jamaica are two communities that are significantly impacted by seasonal flooding. Flooding in these areas causes significant damage to homes and creates significant health risks due to overflowing open pit latrines. Despite repetitive flood damage, Jamaicans continue to live in these flood prone communities. Amphibious retrofit is a cost-sensitive way to keep inhabitants and their possessions safe from flooding.

By applying a buoyant foundation system using buoyancy blocks composed of expanded polystyrene, and using half-length telephone poles or locally harvested decay-resistant tree species for the vertical guidance posts, members of these low-income communities can retrofit their existing homes with amphibious foundations at minimal cost, protecting themselves and their possessions from flood damage.

Buoyant foundation retrofits can be affordable for people of limited means. When compared to the potential cost of relocating and repairing flood damage, buoyant foundation retrofits are a low-cost, low-environmental impact solution.

This work was carried out with the support of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada

Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana


The native American Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Band of Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, is rapidly losing their low-lying traditional homeland as sea level rises and land subsides due to extensive sub-surface oil and gas extraction. Cultural ties to the land and a lack of resources to relocate as a community leave the remaining band members vulnerable to an ever-growing risk of flooding.

Casa Anfibia

March 2014

4th International HOLCIM Awards for Sustainable Construction

Elizabeth English, Steven Chodoriwsky, Mark Tiam, Jaliya Fonseka, Karan Manchanda, Amal Dirie, Kevin Park

Farnsworth House


Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s 1951 Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois, one of the most famous examples of modernist domestic architectecture, is an aesthetic orchestra of simplicity, transparency, and integration with its unique landscape. Despite being originally designed in accordance with the projected 100-year flood depth, in recent years the Farnsworth House increasingly suffered from floodwater damage from the adjacent Fox River. It is in dire need of a flood-proofing solution that does not lessen its iconic appearance in any way.

The Buoyant Foundation Project


Amphibious construction is an adaptive flood risk reduction strategy that works in synchrony with natural cycles of flodding to reduce the hazard vulnerability of flood prone regions and increase their long term disaster resilience.


Best Climate Practices Entry

June 2017

Annoucement of Special Juror’s Award

Elizabeth English, Snehanjali Sumanth, Suhaib Bhatti, Scott Turner, Max Schramp, Natasha Klink

Floating Hope: Mekong Delta, Vietnam

March 2017

5th International HOLCIM Awards for Sustainable Construction

Elizabeth English, Snehanjali Sumanth, Suhaib Bhatti, Scott Turner, Max Schramp, Natasha Klink

Solution Search 2015

January 2015

Solution Search: Reducing Our Risk

Elizabeth English, Benjamin van Nostrand

‘Phibious Farnsworth

March 2014

Architizer A+ Awards
Finalist in the Architecture + Self Initiated Projects Category
Honorable Mention in the Architecture + Historic Preservation Category

Elizabeth English, Steven Chodoriwsky, Mark Tiam, Jaliya Fonseka, Karan Manchanda, Amal Dirie, Kevin Park


August 2013

ONE Prize: Stormproof: International Design Competition for Building Resilient Cities

Daniel Abad, Celia He, Elizabeth English

This House is Amphibious

July 2013

3C (Comprehensive Coastal Communities) Competition Finalist

Katrina Malinski, Elizabeth English


July 2010

US Green Building Council: Natural Talent Design Competion
First Place in Student Division of the Greater New York Region

Elizabeth English, Emily Balaban, Emily Clark, Jaliya Fonseka, Alicia Hu, Laura Langridge, Rebecca Lai, Laura Pellow, David McMurchy