When friends of ours, Nicki and Andrew Bruce, bought a small plot, upon which there was a dilapidated bungalow, on an island in Marlow and showed it to us with much glee, declaring they were going to build the first “floating house”, we were intrigued but wondered if they would ever manage it. Would they regret sacrificing their pretty stone cottage with glorious garden for a watery dream?
Planning restrictions meant that they could not build a house on stilts to avoid flooding as they were restricted to the existing roof level so building a basement, below river level, was the only option to give them the space they required. However, flooding would have made this totally impractical in a conventional house.
As the two Grand Designs programmes dedicated to their build showed, not only have they overcome the problems but they have created a beautiful home plus one ingenious solution to the ghastly problem of flooding which has blighted so many peoples’ lives over the past few years. Their first amphibious house could be the model that allows people to build houses on riverbanks all over the country without the fear of flooding.
The house uses Archimedes’ principle. Instead of normal foundations, the concrete base of the house sits inside a concrete tank which acts as a wet dock, allowing the river water to enter and surround the house. If the water rises to a critical level, this provides buoyancy to lift the house so it floats upwards and acts as a boat. Brilliantly designed by Baca Architects, the house was successfully float tested prior to the Bruces moving in when 150 tons of river water were pumped into the wet dock to mimic a flood and the base rose 2 foot along with the water level. The design has now proved itself through two very wet winters.
Above the concrete base the house has a light timber frame construction with four steel posts or “Dolphins” on the exterior which are fixed to the floor of the wet dock. Control gears on these posts allow the house to slide upwards whilst keeping the house steady so it doesn’t rock. It is designed to float up over 8 foot which is well above any predicted future flooding levels.
The basement of the house contains a games and cinema room, a study and utilities. The ground floor has an open plan kitchen, dining and sitting room with double height glazing affording glorious views out onto the river plus two bedrooms at the rear. The first floor consists of the master bedroom, again with the stunning river view, plus an en-suite bathroom.
The architects estimated the cost of this amphibious house to be 20-25% more than for building a standard house. However, the £1.2 million the Bruces have spent on the house, which includes the plot with derelict bungalow, is still far and away cheaper than purchasing one of the existing houses on the river at Marlow.
Surely this brilliant idea will be springing up on river banks throughout the UK because, to misquote Ratty from Wind in the Willows: “There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about on the river”.
If you are looking to move to Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion or the Gower Peninsula, or buy a house here, Carol or Rayner Peett at West Wales Property Finders would be delighted to help you. Please call them on 01834 862816 / 077966 15332, email firstname.lastname@example.org or check out their website on www.westwalespropertyfinders.co.uk.