amphibious house frontage angled
Source: Supplied – Baca Architects, credited to Tim Crocker
  • UK Government has invested some £1B in flood mitigation
  • 5.2 million properties at risk of flooding (Environment Agency, UK)
  • Owner wanted riverside living but understood the flood risk
  • First of its kind in Britain
  • House can float over 2.5m

Creators of the newly announced Busselton Jetty’s Underwater Discovery Centre, Baca Architects created the UK’s first amphibious house.

Holland takes the crown for floating houses but this design is unique, a seemingly normal house that can float when the river floods.

Flood risk

The UK is no stranger to floods, at the end of 2019, the BBC reported heavy downpours left many parts of England underwater.

With around a billion pounds of government spending on flood and coastal risk management, the risk remains high, government body, Environment Agency, saying in a report:

“… around 5.2 million properties in England, or one in six properties, are at risk of flooding.”

Environment Agency

Melding desire and design

The client brief was simple: live along the River Thames.

Riverside living came with high flood risk, the client said:

“The beautiful setting convinced us that we could build our dream home and that we just needed to find a solution that would enable us to do so. Research led us towards floating technology and finally the amphibious house design.’’

Client, Anonymous

Placed in the well-heeled surrounds of Buckinghamshire, waterside living plays a special role in lifestyle, Baca director Richard Coutts said, “Our senses are stimulated by the wind and soothing sounds of the flowing water and its associated wildlife.”

floating amphibious house diagram how it works
Source: Supplied – Baca Architects

The location also attracts a premium despite the vulnerabilities, Mr Coutts said:

“The aesthetic, environmental and recreational benefits attract a premium for dwellings in waterside locations and, despite the price premium, these properties are often vulnerable to flooding and flood damage.”

Richard Coutts, Director, Baca Architects

Flooding wasn’t the only design consideration, Baca saying the site was designated as a conservation area, and architects were “sympathetic to the locality”, complementing surrounding houses by creating a pitched roof and setting the house over a similar footprint to the previous property.

The project details

Unlike many Dutch designs, the home does not sit on the water.

Instead, the property “rests on the ground on fixed foundations but, whenever a flood occurs, rises up in its dock and floats…”

Designed to withstand a once in a century flood of 2.5m, the 225sqm house is set back 10m from the water’s edge.

amphibious house viewed from river wide angle
Source: Supplied – Baca Architects

Structural engineer Matthew Wells from Teckniker said, “The house is designed as a free-floating pontoon. A lightweight superstructure is supported on a concrete base with sufficient ballast to ensure stability… The floating house is secured by four dolphins (permanent vertical posts) arranged close up to the sidewalls. The assembly is sited within a wet dock comprising retaining walls and base slab. When flooding occurs the dock fills with water and the house rises accordingly.”

With a heavy base, the house is protected against large debris in the water including trees and floating cars.

The house also has intuitive landscaping:

“A carefully laid out garden also acts as a natural early warning flood system”

Matthew Wells, Structural Engineer, Teckniker

Spread across three floors, the interior has 3 bedrooms.

The house was completed in 2015 for a private client.

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