by Michael dEstries
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We’re used to Brad Pitt’s green building foundation, Make It Right NOLA, revealing some new takes on sustainable design, but a house that floats when it floods? Now that’s something that truly raises the bar for sustainable and functional design in the face of adverse elements!

The home, which is the brainchild of Morphosis Architects and its founder, Thom Mayne, will officially be unveiled tomorrow in a ready to move-in condition for one family displaced by Hurricane Katrina. NPR had a sneak peek interview with Mayne this afternoon and shed a bit more light on how it all works. From the article,

The designers gave the building a chassis, made it out of polystyrene foam and covered it with glass-reinforced concrete. “What does that do? It produces a raft; it floats,” Mayne says. “And it’s thought about as a seat belt. I mean, hopefully it never gets used. But when it gets used, it’s important.” The house is anchored to the ground by two vertical guideposts. At times of flooding, the house moves up the guideposts — up to 12 feet — to prevent it from drifting.

According to the interview, when flooding occurs, the home easily breaks away from things like electric lines, plumbing, etc. so that it can travel up the 12-foot guideposts. It also contains enough batteries to keep everything running inside for up to three days. And, obviously, as this is a Make It Right home, is built using green materials and sustainable design. Check out some concept art of the home below — or visit Make It Right NOLA for more details on the greening effort in the Lower 9th Ward.

About Michael dEstries

Michael has been blogging since 2005 on issues such as sustainability, renewable energy, philanthropy, and healthy living. He regularly contributes to a slew of publications, as well as consulting with companies looking to make an impact using the web and social media. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his family on an apple farm.

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  • Deanea

    wow what more could you ask for! The people of MIR have done it again :) smiles for them

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  • VeggieTart

    That really is awesome. The only question is–would it be easy to return the home to ground level and reconnect to the utilities, and how many times can you use this function?

    • Michael d’Estries

      I guessing here — but I think having the vertical shafts make it easy for the home to settle in its original location. I don’t believe there’s much room for movement except vertically. How they handle the piping and electric connections is a different story — there must be some flexible give there?

      As the designer mentioned, they’ve never tested this in real-world situation — only with computer simulations, so who knows how this might really in a hurricane. They’re confident it would make it through anything similar to Katrina.

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  • Klaus Jaritz

    My respect to everyone who converts his fame and fortune to something positively altruistic – even if it reads a bit like something from Jules Verne. (Much of what that guy dreamed up came true).

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  • hannah

    could it not be made more attractive? the architect talked about blending in with the community as a reason for not making it permanently above possible water surge, but this is not very homey looking….

  • Rich

    So it’s a floating single wide trailer? This also looks like it was designed by a group of freshmen design students that did what ever they wanted with their own little section of the house.

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  • http://ecorazzi vernon brannon

    I think this is a great idea, but what happens if the flood waters raise beyond 12 feet? does it deattach itself and just float to never never land? Or will it be kept there waiting to be flooded just like everything else around them, and held in position to be forced to go under? Too bad it does have some kind of manuverability so it can or may stay clear to be driven out to sea? That would be scary enough on that note. My God any way you look at it I would be scary as hell.

  • Alicé Thomas

    The idea of a house that would float in the event of a flood disaster like Katrina is a good idea. But the roof design in the pictures is not feasible for a hurricane. I live in south Louisiana, and I have seen people build houses with extended rooflines (for porches, etc.), and the hurricane winds cause the extra roofing to work like a sail, frequently ripping the entire roof off of the house. The house that floats might not float so well if it filled with water due to a missing roof. I would suggest, instead, a more conventional roof with retractable awnings for porch areas, or window awnings that could be folded down over the windows instead of boarding up windows. Other than the extended roof, the idea has a great deal of merit. Thanks for working so hard to preserve our way of life in Louisiana and other coastal areas.

  • Adheeb

    Me thinks this is more concerned with a tax right off for Brad than to help the folks in New Orleans…. and it’s good PR among the weak minded too. Those who can afford these homes don’t really need Brad’s help to get them. I’d like to see a critical analysis of this whole operation.