A home for all seasons

As the atmosphere warms, weather is becoming more extreme. Warmer air holds more moisture and leads to more intense rainstorms. This means more flooding. A glance at the ten most expensive natural disasters of 2020, which I mentioned yesterday, shows the impact that flooding is already having around the world.

When an area floods, it raises all kinds of questions – will it happen again? What can be done to stop it? Do we repair and stay here in a place that is at risk? Or is it better to move to higher ground? When is it time to abandon a place you have called home? A growing number of places, including entire cities in some cases, are facing existential questions like this.

One possible response is to build communities that are capable of being flooded. It’s never going to be convenient to see streets under several feet of water, but it doesn’t need to be devastating. It is possible to create resilient homes and communities that can adapt and bounce back quickly.

The Home for All Seasons is such a design, the winning proposal in the 2016 Resilient Homes Competition. The most obvious feature of the homes is that the ground floors hold garages and garden rooms, designed to flood without compromising living space or services. All the utilities run through the deck, keeping them safely above flood levels. The warmth from the cables and piping also melts snow that falls on the footpath, as an added bonus.

Of course, ideally you wouldn’t see your garage flooded on a regular basis, however easy it is to clean afterwards, and the development is structured to avoid flooding too. Swales, permeable pavements and raingardens are designed to slow and hold stormwater until it can soak away. The site doesn’t try to resist floods, but to accomodate and adapt to them. Residents should be able to remain in their homes throughout, though an early warning system does remind people to move their cars to higher ground.

As the name suggests, the Home for All Seasons is also resilient to extreme temperatures. It is protected in a heatwave by shaded areas, and natural ventilation that moves heat through the building and draws in cool air at the base. In winter, heat recovery systems, triple glazing and efficient insulation mean very low heating requirements and Passive House standards.

There’s more to explore on the project’s dedicated website, as the architects JTP have considered how buildings could be extended if needed, and thought about place-making and mobility.

This proposal is aimed at the UK context, but architects will need to be generating designs like this in many places around the world – homes fit for a changing climate.

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