FLOATING BUILDINGS
INSIDE THE FLOODPLAIN

What Is It?

Cost: An additional $60 per sq ft in construction costs
(International Marine Flotation Systems, Inc.).
Applications: New construction.

Floating buildings are buildings which are able to rise and fall in response to rising water levels. Buildings are constructed on floating barges, which are then anchored to piles. This design allows for the building to move vertically. While deployment of floating buildings on the East Coast is rare, there have been successful commercial and residential floating structures in Oregon, British Columbia and California, as well as internationally in the Netherlands. Floating must have flexible utility connections to enable building movement. Unlike houseboats, floating buildings have do not have steering controls. Deployment in Boston may be subject to local wetlands ordinances as well as the state-level municipal harbor planning process.

In contrast, amphibious buildings are built on the ground, but can float if water inundates the surrounding area. Such structures are technically feasible, but have not been tested beyond single-family construction. Currently, FEMA does not recognize floating or amphibious buildings in its standards for flood resilience.

Benefits

  • Can contribute to further waterfront development and activation.
  • Responds dynamically to rising sea-levels and tidal action.
  • Buildings can withstand storm surge events.

Drawbacks

  • Siting floating buildings will be a complex process and likely subject to a series of building and environmental regulations.
  • Vulnerable to wave impacts without additional structural supports.
  • Not recognized by FEMA as a flood standard, and not likely to have an impact on insurance premiums.
  • Limited expertise on developing floating buildings on the East Coast.

Additional Resources

Project Examples

SAMPLE OF SUPPLIERS

SOURCES

Photo credit: User Rs1421 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], Wikimedia Commons