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What are we scared of?: Does the threat of climate change and sea level rise present a unique opportunity to re-imagine the way we live with water?


This dissertation is protected by copyright. Do not copy any part of it for any purpose other than personal academic study without the permission of the author.



What are we scared of?: Does the threat of climate change and sea level rise present a unique opportunity to re-imagine the way we live with water?



Abstract The issue of climate change and the various effects it will have

proposals to develop a understanding of the current state of

on sea level and extreme weather events has become increasingly

architectural responses to water.

accepted by governments, architects and planners.

Analysis of these case studies along with an understanding of the scientific and policy context allows the conclusion to be drawn

The aim of this study is to investigate whether these effects offer

that there is significant scope for new and plausible alternatives

an opportunity to adopt an entirely new architectural approach to

to simply building higher and higher flood defences, provided the

living with water.

government can take a visionary and directing role.

The study first describes the scientific basis for the acceptance of climate change as a phenomenon and then moves onto to examine the current policy response within the UK. The outcome of this policy analysis is then compared to proposals and studies produced by various bodies investigating new approaches to flooding and sea level rise in order to establish a criteria for innovative new development. This criteria is then used to analyse various case studies, from vernacular architecture to highly theoretical and speculative



Contents Chapters






Scientific Context


Literature Review


Policy Review


Case Studies






Figure Credits




Figure List Figures The centre of Bristol flooded

Page 1

Page Oil Rocks road network


IPCC prediction of global sea level rise


Floatel Superior in a Norwegian fjord


UKCP09 prediction of sea level rise in S.E. England


Mobile houseboat in Amsterdam


Tewkesbury flooded in 2007


Stationary houseboats in Vancouver


New Orleans flooded


Steigereiland site plan


Great Britain following a 70m rise in sea level


Floating houses at Steigereiland


Aftermath of 1953 storm surge


Steigereiland typologies


LifE approach to rising sea levels and flooding


Salt House lifting method


Vernacular response to a flooded landscape


Alison Brooks’ Salt House


Retreat, defend and attack diagrams


Studio Linfors’ image of a flooded Times Square


Typical flood resilient houses in the UK


Squint Opera’s image of fishing in London


Palafito houses in Chile


Anthony Lau’s Maritime City


Surviving fortified houses in Texas


RIBA’s proposal for Hull to attack rising sea levels


Fortified house design


A scheme for the flooded centre of Bristol


Badjao people in the Phillipines


Oil Rocks aerial view




Introduction “The bulk of the city had long since vanished, and only the steel supported buildings of the central commercial and financial areas had survived the encroaching flood waters.� (Ballard 1962, p19) J G Ballard’s vision of a flooded city presents an extreme view of the aftermath of climate change and a resultant sea-level rise in the future as in figure 1. However, the issue of climate change and the pressing need to both mitigate and adapt to its consequent effects has come to the forefront of international and national policy in recent years. This study takes this increased interest in climate change and its impacts as a sign that developments in the built environment will be forced by government policy and practical necessity to reflect the predicted changes. Primarily the study will investigate the current predictions for sea-level rise, the risk of flooding and the reaction to this within architecture and planning and then go beyond the immediate situation to investigate a possible future world where living with water has become a part of everyday life. figure 1 - the centre of Bristol flooded 1

The most recent report from the United Nations (UN)

This study investigates the possible architectural responses to

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presented

flooding, first by examining the scientific basis behind this new

four scenarios based on different levels of emissions and reductions

concern for climate change, to establish the rationale for this

that would have a significant effect on global sea levels, with the

study. Following this, literature concerning the new concern for

minimum rise by 2100 estimated at 18 cm up to a maximum of

climate change and its effects forms the central basis for the study.

59 cm. The report also predicted that there would very likely be a

This literature approaches the issue from two perspectives: firstly,

significant increase in extreme weather events, including periods of

attitudes and responses to flooding and why people choose to

heavy rainfall (Pachauri & Reisinger 2007, p.2).

still live in areas under threat and, secondly, think-tank produced papers making recommendations as to how the UK government

In Britain the issue of climate change and its effects has risen in both

should respond to the problems. Government policy will then be

the public consciousness and in importance within government

investigated in terms of the conclusions of the relevant texts to

policy. A major influence on UK government policy has been the

analyse the current approach and evaluate its success.

Stern review of 2006, which took an economic approach to the issue of climate change and concluded that “adaptation is the only

These texts will then be used as the basis for an analysis of a selection

response available for the impacts that will occur over the next

of case studies to establish the potential for architecture to address

several decades before mitigation measures can have an effect.�

the threats of climate change.

(Stern 2006, xxi).


The combination of the analysis drawn from these case studies and the policy examined earlier will be used to consider and suggest an answer to the research question and examine future possibilities that may come to exist if the most extreme climatic changes take place. Will government policy drive a change in attitudes and lead to a change in our relationship with water, or will dramatic natural events force architects, planners and other shapers of the built environment to come up with solutions to these changing conditions?



Methodology This study is formed from two supporting strands of research, the

architecture. The scope of the secondary research was widened

first establishes the current consensus in science for the existence

to take this into account, including articles from the insurance

of climate change and sea level rise, explores texts that make

industry through to sociological research. This scope will be

recommendations for dealing with sea level rise and flooding and

discussed in the literature review.

finally examines current Government policy. The second strand examines case studies and analyses these in the terms of the first

The study then moves onto an investigation of case studies of

strand of research in order to identify useful precedents and

architectural responses to water. The studies are divided into four

successful technologies.

sections - vernacular, 20th century, contemporary and speculative. The categories cover the entire spectrum of construction and

The bulk of this report has been written using secondary research,

ensure that examples from outside common western practice are

obtained from journal articles, government policy documents

included. These sections give a wide variety of typologies and

and the publications of quangos and other public and private

construction methods, details that can either be used wholesale

organisations with an interest in the relationship between water

in a new development, or adapted to fit specific circumstances. It

and the built environment.

is felt that by dividing the case studies into these sections a clarity and structure is given to the analysis that could otherwise become

In the process of the original literature search it became clear that

mired in the vast array of available examples.

policy and research concerning living with water came from a much wider disciplinary background than purely planning and


Vernacular covers all examples of buildings that have not been

a mix of resilient technologies to suit its flood threatened location

expressly designed, but rather evolved through local practices in

on the Essex coast. These contrasting scales allow an investigation

response to specific conditions. Stilt houses around the world and

of water influenced architecture from a masterplanning level

nomadic boat peoples are discussed, contrasting a typology with a

down to specific construction details. The Netherlands example is

way of life that are both tolerant of water.

considered particularly relevant due to the approach taken in that country, where the significant pressure of flooding and the risk


20th century takes into account modern construction methods

of the possible rise in sea-level caused by climate change has led

and technology and first investigates the Azerbaijani Oil Rocks

to a coordinated approach to deal with “new water management

city, built on piles and manmade islands on the Caspian Sea and

problems” (Hooimeijer et al, 2005, p.8) and “Cities [that] are not

secondly urban houseboats, two different technologies that could

able to withstand the extreme conditions of flooding that have

be adapted to many sites to manage changing conditions.

occurred in recent years” (ibid).

Contemporary includes examples that are specifically addressing the

Finally, Speculative compares illustrative projects that propose

changes brought about by climate change and examines projects

fantasy versions of the results of climate change with Anthony

on two very different scales: Marlies Rohmer’s Steigereiland

Lau’s Maritime City, a more realistic project to re-use maritime

development, part of an urban extension to Amsterdam, which

infrastructure to create a floating city in the Thames Estuary. These

comprises a mix of artificial islands, stilt buildings and floating

case studies give an opportunity to look at positive interpretations

dwellings and Alison Brookes’ Salt House, a single dwelling that uses

of the changes that may occur as a result of climate change.

These case studies are investigated and analysed based on criteria

“1.25 million people are already at risk from flooding by the Thames

extracted in the literature review to ascertain which factors could

and a major flood in the Thames Gateway could cost as much as ÂŁ12

be adopted for future developments.

billion [and] according to the recent Association of British Insurers report, climate change could increase fluvial and coastal flood risk

Again the research into the case studies has been secondary

by a factor of 8 to 12 times� (London Assembly Environment

in nature, such is the volume of material produced regarding

Committee, 2005, p.4).

these areas it was felt that there was sufficient depth to gain an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

Finally, the results of this analysis are examined to suggest areas of further research.

The penultimate stage of the study considers the issues raised both from the analysis of policy and the available case studies in order

As mentioned above, it is critical to this study to understand the

to answer the original research question and to suggest how the

real world context of the issues being examined. The following

knowledge gained should be applied, specifically within the UK.

chapters examine and analyse this context.

This knowledge will be of particular relevance to areas such as the Thames Gateway, a much discussed example of development proposed in an area where:



Scientific Context While it is not within the scope of this study to critically examine

(Pachouli & Reisinger 2007 p.2) and that “many natural systems

the arguments surrounding climate change, it is important to

are being affected by regional climate changes” (ibid). The report

establish the evidence base that is being used as a rationale for

goes on to describe how “most of the observed increase in global

the study. The notion of a global scientific consensus on climate

average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely

change is driven by the work of the Intergovernmental Panel

due to the observed increase in anthropogenic [greenhouse gas]

on Climate Change (IPCC), this body was set up jointly by the

concentrations” (ibid p.5). Therefore, it is clear that a scientific

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World

consensus exists that climate change is occurring and is likely to be

Meteorological Organisation (WMO) to “provide the world with

happening as a result of human activity.

a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic

The report then goes on to examine the likely effect of different

impacts” (IPCC 2011). The IPCC produces regular reports on the

emissions scenarios on continued climate change, with the most

current state of climate science and aims to be “policy-relevant and

extreme scenario, assuming a lack of emissions control leading

yet policy-neutral, never policy-prescriptive” (IPCC 2011).

to a possible 6.4°C rise in global temperatures and a 0.6m rise in sea-level by 2100 (ibid p.8) (see figure 2). Evidence for this

To understand the current situation, the most recent report

being influenced by human activity is shown from archaeological

produced by the IPCC is the fourth assessment report, Climate

investigations that have established that sea levels stabilised around

Change 2007. This report contains a mass of climate data, but it is

3000 years ago, following the last ice-age and remained stable until

summarised that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal”

around 1850 (ibid). While a 0.6m rise in sea level does not seem


massively significant, considering that tides can rise and fall by

In the UK, government acceptance of climate change is

10m per day around the British Isles, it is this in combination with

demonstrated both in support for the work of the IPCC and in

the likelihood of increased frequency of extreme weather and the

references to climate change throughout government policy. An

resulting storm surges (ibid) that represents a significant threat to

obvious example of relevance to this study is mentioned above

low-lying coastal areas.

in the Policy Review chapter, where the effects of climate change are explicitly referenced in PPS25: Development and Flood Risk


Estimates of the past

Instrumental Record

Projections of the future

Sea level change (mm)


UK Climate Projections (UKCP) to assess the impact of climate change locally and to make suggestions as to how to deal with the


effects. This body provides data broken down by location around


the UK. Figure 3 shows the predicted sea level change for the south


east of England in a high emissions scenario, with no significant


reduction in the production of greenhouse gases. This is combined with a continuing sinking of the land in the south east as a result of


the iso-static rebound of the north of the country after the melting

-200 1800







figure 2 - IPCC prediction of global sea level rise


(DCLG 2010). The Government has also commissioned the

of ice from the last ice-age. The choice of a high emissions scenario as a variable for this analysis is based on Curtis and van der Sande’s assertion that design for flooding should be based on possible

consequences, rather than the likelihood of them happening, to avoid a catastrophic event (RIBA 2007 p.24).


5% Certain 0.8m

50% Certain 95% Certain


This sea leavel rise along with the possibility of another storm surge similar to the one that struck the east coast of England in 1953 has the potential to cause water levels in excess of 6.5m above mean sea



0.0m 2011












UKCP09 Relative sea level rise in high emissions scenario: South East United Kingdom

level in the Thames Estuary.

figure 3 - UKCP09 prediction of sea level rise in South East It is obvious from this data that there is a clear need to prepare


for the increased likelihood of an event of this kind and that architecture has a significant role to play in creating a new way of living with water that minimises the risks of flooding. The following chapter will examine the literature that has arisen in this climate of scientific consensus for the acceptance of anthropogenic climate change and the resulting increase in sea level and extreme weather events.



Literature Review The academic justification for this study is based on two supporting and related bodies of work. Firstly, the critical reaction to existing government policy regarding how we live with water and secondly, academic and real world suggestions of new ways of living with water. Criticism of the government’s approach has come from numerous directions. Before the most recent large scale floods that hit the UK in 2007 (see figure 4), White and Howe were convinced that “current planning policy and practice, albeit unintentionally, foster[s] an environment susceptible to flooding” (2002, p.743). They argued that any attempt to improve the situation could not simply rely on engineering schemes to control floodwater, but would have to address the “economic, social and political factors influencing wider society and underpinning the impact of damaging floods” (ibid, p.744). figure 4 - Tewkesbury flooded in 2007


Another criticism of building larger and more elaborate flood defences comes from Lewis and Kelman’s paper that investigates the risk ecology of building housing in areas at risk of flooding. They argue that “flood defences have so often implied a falsely absolute protection, under the assumption of which more development has taken place, leading to greater destruction, damage and casualties when flooding eventually, inevitably, occurred” (2009, p.16) (see figure 5). Therefore the existing practise of building in areas at risk of flooding and then attempting to protect these areas with massive engineering projects is unsustainable and unrealistic. This argument is backed up by the UK government’s Foresight Programme, which examined the challenges of flooding posed by climate change and “found that if we used engineering alone to manage the additional risks, it could cost £52 billion of investment. This compares with £22 billion when using engineering in concert with a range of non-engineering measures” (Evans & Hall 2004, p.56). figure 5 - New Orleans flooded after Hurricane Katrina, 14

August 2005

However, this excessive cost does not mean that simply ignoring the issue of sea level rise and increased flooding is realistic, in Adapting Buildings and Cities for Climate Change, the possible threat is outlined, with a minimum 300mm rise in global sea levels likely by 2100 in a best case scenario and up to 700mm if mitigation efforts fail (Roaf et al 2005, p.193). This effect is compounded in the UK by the continued effects of the last ice age, 18,000 years ago. This change, known as isostatic rebound is causing land to fall in the south of England as the north of the UK rebounds from the removed weight of the ice sheet and the entire island tilts. This change combined with the effects of climate change could cause an increase in sea level of 1000mm by 2100 in the south east of England (ibid). In addition to this, Roaf also speculates that with increased global temperatures, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets may begin to melt and into the 22nd century leading to massive increases in sea level of up to 70m (ibid, p.192) (see figure 6). It is therefore clear that a solution will need to be found. However, Roaf ’s book, despite its figure 6 - Great Britain following a 70m rise in sea level 15

title, suggests little in the way of mitigation measures or alternative approaches beyond vague speculation that “we may then see, over the next decades, the migrations of populations to less climatically exposed regions of the British Isles� (ibid, p.204). This assertion is undermined by evidence given in the same chapter, that London has suffered from numerous catastrophic floods in its history, most famously the 1953 flooding that resulted from a storm surge in the North Sea, shown in figure 7, and yet is still the most populous city in the UK and forecast to grow further (ibid p.203). If we accept that population pressure in the south east of the UK is likely to continue and that this area is the most susceptible to the various threats resulting from climate change, then it is clear that a considered approach is necessary. This leads to the LifE project, or Long-term Initiatives for Flood-risk Environments. This text takes the threat of climate change and its resultant effects as a given and states that there are 5 million people in 2 million homes in England and Wales at risk of flooding (baca architects, 2009, p.3). The report figure 7 - aftermath of 1953 storm surge 16

proposes numerous strategies, applicable to different scenarios, for

simply attempting to hold it at bay. The project proposes solutions

dealing with flooding. The strategies are all characterised by being

to flooding that attempt to mitigate the threat to both existing

both long-term and non-defensive and are underpinned by the

and proposed developments as well as creating opportunities for

concept of “making space for water” and illustrated in figure 8 (ibid,

additional amenities and energy generation. This text goes much

figure 8 - LifE approach to rising sea levels and flooding

further than Adapting Buildings and Cities for Climate Change and takes real-life scenarios that have characteristics that appear across the British Isles and proposes best practice solutions. This study will return to the recommendations in the LifE report, but for now it is most important to note that when considering the issue of cost, the report suggests that the recommendations made may incur expenses of up to 30% more than traditional construction methods. However, this figure does not take into account the additional cost of flood defences that may be needed or the costs

p.4), an approach suggested by the Department for Rural Affairs

and time taken to repair any flood damage to developments that

(Defra) which is focused on “managing the risks from flooding [...]

do not make space for water, costs that should be offset by the

by employing an integrated portfolio of approaches which reflect

money saved after a single flooding event (ibid, p.26).

both local and national priorities” (ibid). Making space for water means controlling floodwater and mitigating its effects rather than


To focus this study on a single area in order to assess its success

“Challenges [faced] now and in the coming years may drive us back

and suitability this study has drawn on the work of the RIBA’s

towards embracing the previously dynamic relation between land,

Building Futures thinktank. This body produced a number of

water and community” (ibid, p.5)

texts dealing with the issue of flooding and living with water. The collection of papers, Living with water - Visions of a flooded future,

Visions of a flooded future also presents a quote from Bill Getting,

examines first of all the threat facing the UK from climate change

the RIBA President’s Sustainability Advisor,

and its effects and then presents papers from various professionals working in the built environment. The threat of flooding is broken

Vernacular architecture somewhere in the world is probably already

down simply into its cost, currently a total of £2.2 billion per year,

designed to cope with the extremes of climate we will face - whether

made up of £800 million spent on defences and £1.4 billion spent

flooding, drought or high winds. We can learn from these precedents

on repairing damage caused by flooding. The text also draws on

(ibid) (see figure 9).

the UK government’s Foresight Project, that has been mentioned


previously, to argue that the cost of damage could rise to £25 billion

The combination of these two notions has been particularly

in the worst case scenario (RIBA 2007 p.3) and the number of

influential on this study. The papers in this text contain a

people in the UK at risk from flooding increase from 1.5 million to

number of inspiring statements, intended to spur discussion and

3.5 million as a result of climate change. The introduction to this

innovation, rather than specific solutions - statements specific

text makes a number of statements regarding the ongoing threat of

to the Thames Estuary - but applicable to any area at risk from

flooding, of particular relevance to this study is the suggestion that

flooding. Kim Wilkie argues that an elemental landscape such as

that of the estuary should set the priorities for new architecture and encourage building forms sympathetic to the location and tolerant or “even welcoming of water” (ibid, p.11). David Price presents development in the Thames Estuary as “potentially the most magical expression of our gradually evolving relationship between land and water,” (ibid, p.12). In their paper, Paul Ruff and Glenn Moorley examine two scenarios for development in the estuary, the first reliant on a massive engineering intervention to create a new barrage across the mouth of the river and the second a softer and holistic approach that “gives the opportunity for each of the areas’ problems to be addressed individually through tailored solutions (ibid, p.21). They argue that this approach, with its scope for flexibility, is the more seductive and provides the possibility of developing a unique identity for the area through innovative design. Finally, Kiran Curtis and Kees van der Sande challenge the currently accepted wisdom of designing for probability - the Environment Agency’s 1 in 100 or 1 in 1000 year flood levels - a mindset that leaves us at risk of a “[flooding] event that has a low figure 9 - a vernacular response to a flooded landscape 19

chance of happening, but is catastrophic if it does� (ibid p.24). They

populations is not a viable option. This document proposes three

argue that an increased awareness of the risk of flooding amongst

varied approaches towards flood management, emphasising

the general public is needed to drive demand for mitigations

a long-term strategic approach that provides a framework for

measures, an argument that reflects the conclusion of Lewis and

immediate action. These three options, as described in the title

Kelman’s paper mentioned above.




Most relevant to this study is another Building Futures paper, the 2009 text, Facing up to Rising Sea-levels: Retreat, Defend, Attack? This document takes the standpoint that there is a possibility of


figure 10 - retreat, defend and attack diagrams

sea-level rise of up to 1960 mm in some parts of the UK (UK

are characterised as retreat, defend and attack and shown in

Climate Projections 2009). The problems caused by this sea-level

figure 10. Retreat is intended to be managed and long-term and

rise will be felt particularly in densely populated urban areas (RIBA

involves allowing water into areas that are not economically viable

2009, p.2), ranging from flooding from rainwater, storm-surges

to defend. This strategy, however, is not necessarily practical

and increased wave damage and coastal erosion. Theses problems

in densely populated areas and does not provide solutions to

require drastic solutions because the cities affected are important

other conflicting issues such as population growth and creating

to the national fabric both in terms of identity and economic

sustainable communities. Defend is the most expensive group of

activity, either as ports and trading areas or as tourism draws (ibid

solutions, and requires a great deal of coordination across large

p.4). Therefore simply abandoning these areas and relocating their

areas, the high cost means that this strategy is only practical in

extremely high value areas such as the City of London. The final

in other areas. Secondly, the report argues that due to the large

approach, Attack, is also expensive but involves creating extremely

scale of the issue, solutions will require a coordinated approach

flexible and dynamic space for cities to expand into, areas that take

and strong leadership from a body with a strategic overview that

advantage of the amenity of waterside locations and could possibly

can communicate the threats and solutions effectively. Finally the

provide a significant economic return on the cost of investment

text goes much further than the LifE Project by looking at examples

(ibid p.10).

concerning entire cities and proposing solutions that could provide practical development options in extremely long term situations,

Retreat, Defend, Attack? takes a similar approach to the LifE project

up to 200 years. This long term approach is presented as necessary

in describing the threat posed by climate change and sea-level rise,

in contrast to the current situation where long term strategic

proposing different solutions and then applying these to real-life

planning is crippled by the conflicting timescales of the four year

examples. In addition to these practical proposals, the text draws

electoral cycle, 10 to 15 year scope of local planning, 20 year

three main conclusions that, it is argued, must be met in order to

timeframe of infrastructure development and 50 to 100 year, or

successfully respond to the threat posed by sea-level rise. The first

longer, scale of change in the climate and coastal environment. The

conclusion is the original rationale for the thinktank’s work, that

text proposes that to deal effectively with this, a successful proposal

the UK has limited resources and simply cannot afford to protect

will need to provide a long term framework for development, but

the entirety of its coastline, therefore a variety of solutions are

with the possibility of immediate action (ibid p.26).

required, solutions that are economically viable and can be shown to generate an income or balance their costs against savings made


The literature examined in this chapter combined with the scientific data described earlier provides the framework and theoretical underpinnings of government policy in the UK; the next chapter will examine the current state of this policy and consider its effectiveness.


Policy Review In order to explain the architectural response to flooding in the

underpinning planning” (p.2 ibid) and bases this principle on the

UK, this chapter will provide an overview of government policy as

classic definition given by the Brundtland Report:

it applies to flooding and development. Development policy in the main is controlled by the Town and Country Planning system, this

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the

system is comprised of a body of national policy that then informs

present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet

regional policy and finally plan making, objective setting and

their own needs” (Brundtland 1987).

decision making at a local level. Government policy therefore has an indirect influence over all development taking place in locations

In terms of flooding PPS1 states that local planning authorities

affected by flooding across the UK.

should consider : “the potential impact of the environment on proposed developments

National planning policy is framed in overarching terms by

by avoiding new development in areas at risk of flooding and sea-level

Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 1, Delivering Sustainable

rise, and as far as possible, by accommodating natural hazards and the

Development (DCLG 2005), which sets out a set of objectives

impacts of climate change” (DCLG 2005 p.8)

that need to be “taken into account by regional planning bodies […], the Mayor of London […] and local planning authorities

Planning authorities also have a responsibility to prepare robust

in the preparation of local development documents (p. iii DCLG

policy that are based on objectives for the future of the area,

2005). PPS1 makes “sustainable development the core principle

objectives that should include ensuring that developments “are


sustainable, durable and adaptable (including taking account of

already experienced and entirely new risks where flooding has not

natural hazards such as flooding) and make efficient and prudent

occurred in the past. The aim of planning should be to “appraise,

use of resources” (p.14 ibid).

manage and reduce this risk” (p.2 ibid) where possible.

PPS1 influences all other planning policy, which when looking

To achieve this, PPS25 describes a risk based approach whereby

specifically at flooding is controlled by PPS25, Development

local planning authorities are required to deal with three factors,

and Flood Risk (DCLG 2010) which sets out the framework for

firstly the source of flood risk, by reducing development in flood

national policy on flooding and again outlines the objectives that

risk areas and minimising run-off from new development. Secondly,

regional planning bodies, the Mayor of London and local planning

the pathways of floodwater, by managing the routes taken by flood

authorities must consider when preparing local development

water and managing unavoidable run-off. Finally, the receptors of


floodwater, reducing the impact on anything affected by floods, from people to property (p.6 ibid).

PPS25 accepts that flooding is a natural, unavoidable process and


that we have to concentrate on management and reducing its

PPS25 insists that all applications for development within areas at

effects. PPS25 also describes the Government’s belief that climate

risk of flooding, designated by the Environment Agency, must be

change is likely to mean “milder wetter winters and hotter drier

accompanied by a flood risk assessment. This document, prepared

summers in the UK, while sea levels will continue to rise” (DCLG

by the developer, must demonstrate the effect of flooding on the

2010 p.1) which will cause both an increased flooding where this is

proposed development, prove that the development is safe, will

not cause increased flooding elsewhere, reduces flood risk overall if

Council 2011 p. 44). The document also demonstrates a lack of

possible, and describe any measures proposed to combat flooding

imagination when dealing with flooding, despite the current risk

(p.8 ibid). This assessment is then judged by the Environment

and likely future increase, the Core Strategy simply refers back

Agency and local authorities should take their verdict into account

to policies set out in PPS25 to require flood risk assessments and

when determining applications.

the implementation of Sustainable Drainage Strategies (SUDS) (p.85 ibid). The only local originality is a stated aim to safeguard

As an example of how this policy is interpreted by local authorities,

green infrastructure and make provision for water bodies in new

this study has also examined the proposed Core Strategy of

development (p.86 ibid).

Dartford Borough Council. This council covers an area on the south bank of the Thames Estuary, to the east of London and its

The shortcomings in this document highlight the discrepancy

core strategy is the central planning document that will outline the

between the integrated approach described as absolutely necessary

framework and objectives for development in the borough over

in reports such as LifE in previous chapters and also required in

the next 10 to 15 years. It highlights the challenges facing the UK

national policy and the reality of local planning today. It is in this

in accommodating housing demand in the south east and dealing

gap between recommendations and actual policy that this study

with flooding, while PPS25 insists that development should be

argues there is space for a new, integrated and ambitious approach

avoided in flood risk areas, the Dartford Core Strategy, influenced

to living with water.

by other government objectives, states that 11,700 new homes should be built in the Thames waterfront area (Dartford Borough


The preceding chapters demonstrate that there is not only a scientific consensus that climate change is happening and will have long lasting and dramatic effects but also a multitude of theoretical responses suggested and a political will to implement them. However, in the UK development of any kind that responds specifically to water in an innovative way is scarce and most likely to take the form of houses with uninhabited ground floors, see figure 11, a typology that creates a streetscape devoid of life and seems an inappropriate response to a threat of flooding that could become much more frequent, or even a permanent state of inundation. The following chapter investigates and analyses case studies from around the world that take the challenge of flooding and rising sea levels and use this constraint as an inspiration to create ways of living with water that are new to the UK or implemented only on a very small scale.


figure 11 - typical flood resilient houses in the UK

Case Studies There is a massive variety of examples of the potential for

of the issue of climate change and its effects, new approaches

architecture to offer a new perspective on our attitude to water and

have been taken to living with water, from prosaic examples of

how to live with it. This study will examine these examples under

resilient buildings in the UK that employ raised floor levels and

four categories, categories that will occasionally overlap but should

materials that can be easily cleaned to housing developments in the

remain fairly distinct. Firstly, there is vernacular architecture,

Netherlands that have combined facets of that country’s houseboat

or rather, structures created purely to deal with practical issues

tradition with modern housing types to create floating estates that

of water encroaching onto land occupied by humans. These

can adapt to changing conditions. The final category under which

structures have existed throughout human history and across

the case studies will be examined is that of speculative projects. As

the planet, this study will examine various examples of these and

mentioned before, the issue of climate change has been steadily

suggest building methods and typologies that could be adapted

increasing in importance and recognition, this has resulted in a

to deal with contemporary issues. Secondly, twentieth century

rash of speculative architectural solutions to the problems caused,

examples, designs from the post-industrial revolution era that have

from the adaptation of existing water-borne infrastructure to the

sort to address living with water, whether through necessity or

repurposing of entire cities once they become flooded. This chapter

simply for effect. This period is particularly interesting due to the

will deal with these categories in turn and offer examples, analysis

application of different technologies that emerged, from building

and suggest features from each that could be adopted in an attempt

with reinforced concrete to the high-technology building solutions

to find a new way to live with water.

that emerged in the latter part of the century. The third category is that of contemporary examples, with the growing recognition


Vernacular When considering vernacular building types that respond to flooding, the most obvious example is that of the stilt house. These buildings are found around the world from Palafito houses in Venezuela and Chile to Nipa huts and Pang uks in the Philippines and Thailand to Crannogs in Scotland and Ireland (figure 12). These buildings all share common locations, areas of large bodies of water such as coasts, lakes and deltas, where the inhabitants lived intimately with the water, often in subsistence lifestyles, using the water to supply food and as a means of transport. As a result of this lifestyle the buildings require minimal infrastructure, there is no need for roads and modern day stilt houses in South East Asia often still have no access to services such as running water and electricity. They use local materials for construction - bamboo in Asia, timber or stone in Scotland and timber in South America - and are very flexible and adaptable in construction, easily extended, dismantled


figure 12 - Palafito houses in Chile

or raised depending on local conditions such as weather or food

(2009) argue is responsible for the extremely high costs of damage

supplies. They also serve additional uses, such as in South East

from flooding in areas that rely on defences. As an extension to this,

Asia, providing space for building where the expanses of water

the close relationship that the buildings foster with water means

makes traditional construction impossible and land too valuable

that the inhabitants are very sensitive to changes in climate and its

for agricultural use to build on. In Scotland, island dwellings gave

impacts and are likely to be much more aware of the consequences

protection and in South America provided space for living in areas

of human activity on their lifestyles and therefore more likely to

next to rivers, the major transport routes.

be willing to make changes and adapt to prevent or mitigate such consequences. Stilt houses also represent an architectural style that

Stilt dwellings fill many of the criteria set out by the various texts

responds particularly successfully to its environment, occupying

in the Literature Review chapter. In areas where various social,

locations that take advantage of natural shelter, exploit resources

economic and political factors have combined to induce people

in a sustainable way and helping to create unique identities for

to live, despite the risks of flooding (White & Howe 2002), they

the areas in which they are built, all characteristics that Living

provide reasonably safe accommodation for their inhabitants.

with water insists must be a part of new developments in flood-

They are also much cheaper to build than the massive engineering

prone areas in the UK (RIBA 2007). However, where vernacular

projects that would be needed to protect vast areas such as river

stilt houses fall down as examples of appropriate development

deltas from flooding and due to the nature of their construction

that could be adopted in the UK is in two key issues raised in

and the lifestyles of the people that inhabit them, they help to

Retreat, defend, attack, specifically that for development to respond

prevent the false sense of safety and security that Lewis & Kelman

to flooding on a large scale and offer a successful alternative, it


would need to be coordinated, strategically planned and very longterm (RIBA 2009). In contrast to this the silt houses discussed here are developed on a small scale, individuals responding to specific conditions and constraints, using materials that are light and easy to work but with fundamentally short life spans. While this produces architecture incredibly well adapted to its location, it does not necessarily provide a solution that can be adopted on a large scale. However more modern developments have adapted this typology, particularly in the South-eastern United States where frequent hurricanes and a coordinated effort by the insurance industry has created the Fortified...for safer living programme, this specifies stilt houses, with living areas located above catastrophic storm surge levels with decks and storage designed to breakaway below. Figure 13 shows the a group of fortified homes, left standing after Hurricane Ike hit Texas, amid the rubble of traditionally built homes. This emphasises the success of this design (figure 14) and of


the importance of designing to possible consequences as opposed

figure 13 - surviving fortified houses in Texas folowing

to weighing up the probability of risks (RIBA 2007).

Hurricane Ike in in 2008

rigid structure to resist wind and wave action platform above predicted storm surge level

predicted storm surge

stairs and decks designed to break away rigid piles strong enough to resist floating debris

Another, more extreme, vernacular approach to living with water, is that of the nomadic populations of South East Asia, such as the Badjao people of the Philippines and the Moken in Thailand and Burma. These people live an even more transient existence than those inhabiting stilt houses, their lives mainly conducted on boats and often existing outside of constructed ideas of nationality and property (figure 15). They rely on subsistence fishing and

rigid piles sunk deep into solid ground

figure 14 - fortified house design

small amounts of trading and visit land rarely. It is difficult to appraise this lifestyle in an architectural sense, however, there are facets of it that could be adapted to the UK, provided support

It is clear that the stilt house typology offers numerous advantages

networks and infrastructure were provided to enable people to

that could be adopted and adapted in contemporary housing

live conveniently and hygienically on boats. The mobile nature of

to address the threat posed by climate change, sea level rise and

their accommodation means that the nomadic people are able to

flooding and create a new way of living with water. However, new

move entirely at will, to areas with better food supplies or to avoid

challenges would also be created, how to supply and safeguard

conflict. If sea levels did eventually rise to the extremes suggested

services to housing that could often be surrounded by water or

by Roaf (2005) then the scope for boats as both accommodation

threatened by storm surges.

and travel could increase massively in the UK and this could


be adapted to moving to find employment, or improved living conditions and not being restricted by ownership of a solid, immovable building and the vagaries of the housing market. This way of life also corresponds with the suggestions in the Living with water paper, that solutions should address problems individually and develop uniquely to specific areas. In the UK areas that are already extremely low lying such as the Norfolk Broads and other spaces that have been reclaimed from the sea, could be retreated from and turned over instead to roving populations of boat people. For this to succeed, again the assertion in the Retreat‌ report (RIBA 2009) is key, that a long term, coordinated approach would be needed to provide appropriate infrastructure.

figure 15 - Badjao people in the Phillipines


20th Century The first 20th century case study chosen is not a development that was intended to deal with flooding, but rather one that had to approach water in a different way, driven by economic forces to exploit resources. This is Neft Daslari or Oil Rocks, an oil production facility on the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan. Originally built by the Soviets, construction started in 1949 and the complex is still partially operational, with investment attracted by the Azerbaijani government leading to new additions being added to the original structure. The complex itself is comprised of around 600 oil wells strung out into the Caspian Sea, linked by 120 miles of trestle pathways to each other and back to larger man-made islands (figure 16). The original construction was built 34 miles offshore on piles using sunken ships as foundations and as the complex grew larger the

figure 16 - Oil Rocks

islands were extended with earth and landfill. The islands now

aerial view


support shops, hotels, cinemas and a Palace of Culture to occupy the 5000 oil workers that spend week long shifts offshore. Although Oil Rocks was not designed to respond to changing water levels but rather the permanent presence of water (figure 17), it does demonstrate a further development of the kind of technology used in stilt houses mentioned above to create settlements that exploit water while also making space for it (baca architects 2009). It does this in a way that is permanent yet flexible and cheaper than attempting to drain or protect a similar area from the water. It also shows how an extremely coordinated response, with strong leadership as suggested by the RIBA’s Retreat‌ report (2009), can create very large engineering and development schemes, although this highlights how difficult it may be to achieve similar developments in the UK if it requires coordination on the level of a communist dictatorship. figure 17 - Oil Rocks road network


By developing the idea of Oil Rocks further, it is also possible to

changing economic or climatic conditions, population change

see how this kind of development could meet many of the other

or resource availability, growing in size to respond to demand or

requirements from the various papers examined in the Literature

changing shape to adapt to changing river or coastal morphology

Review. Building housing on stilts out onto the water reduces

in the manner recommended in the RIBA’s Retreat‌ (2009).

pressure on the land both in terms of space for housing and space for water in times of flood, therefore, areas up- or down-stream or

A second 20th century example of living with water is that of the

further along the coast will not suffer increased flooding as space

urban house-boat. These craft are found across the world and vary

has been left for water (baca architects 2009). Living over water

in execution on a spectrum from boats that can be lived on to

would also give the inhabitants a better perspective over the active

houses that float. They can also vary in scale from units that would

climate and river systems and make them more aware of changes,

provide enough space for one or two people up to massive floatels,

their own impacts and the threat of flooding - helping to counter

used in the offshore oil industry that provide accommodation for

the false sense of safety described by Lewis & Kelman (2009). A

around 500 people in safety and comfort in harsh locations such

large framework like Oil Rocks would also provide opportunities

as the North Sea (figure 18). One notable characteristic of smaller

for siting renewable power generation facilities as described in

houseboats is that they are often found in the harbour areas of

the LifE Report, so a development could mitigate the effects of

post-industrial cities, occupying waterfronts that no longer serve

climate change in multiple ways (baca architects 2009). Finally if

any practical purpose. In these locations, colonisation by house-

a development such as Oil Rocks was designed around a modular

boats frequently takes place before redevelopment of the former

framework it could be made flexible and dynamic, responding to

industrial areas has gathered pace and the homes exist in a semi-



preceding page - figure 18 - Floatel Superior in a Norwegian fjord

legal status, re-using obsolete docks and often converting boats discarded by the post-industrial society. These house-boats also have varied requirements; those such as the narrow boats found on British canals are relatively self sufficient, generate their own power and only require occasional facilities to fill up water tanks and empty chemical toilets (figure 19). These house-boats represent the ultimately flexible solution to living with water and are able to move in response to economic or climatic conditions and settle wherever there is space. In contrast, house-boats in places such as Vancouver and Denmark are much more floating houses, requiring permanent moorings and connections to services in order to survive. These craft often have no form of propulsion, only moving once in their existence, from shipyard to berth (figure 20). As a solution to the threat of flooding, a mixture of these types of house-boat seems appropriate - smaller, more self sufficient craft could move around, providing accommodation where economic, political or social reasons have created a demand for people to live,

figure 19 - mobile houseboat in Amsterdam 37

able to exist regardless of flood risk (White & Howe 2002). More permanent craft would be more suitable in areas where population is more stable, but pressures from flooding are extreme enough to require a solution more flexible and dynamic than stilt buildings. House-boats of any kind would be adaptable to all consequences of climate change and sea level rise, fulfilling Living with water’s requirement that solutions accommodate possible consequences, rather than judging their likelihood of occurring (RIBA 2007). Furthermore they are the only accommodation that could cope with the extreme sea level rise forecast by Roaf et al, were the polar ice caps to melt (2005). House-boats would also seem to address Lewis & Kelman’s (2009) concerns about false ideas of protection, as inhabitants of houseboats would have the same relationship to water as the nomadic south east Asian communities discussed above, aware of every change in their environment and the effect of human activity upon it. A criticism of houseboats may be that they do not really create the unique architectural identity of an area suggested in Living with water (2007), rather seeming to result


figure 20 - stationary houseboats in Vancouver

in entirely individual approaches and solutions, although this haphazard nature could be argued to be of more character than uniform housing estates currently being built in Britain. A final positive feature of house-boats is that due to their individualistic nature, they would not require the same degree of leadership and coordination demanded by the RIBA’s Retreat‌ (2009) and therefore, may be more appropriate as an immediate solution, prior to the establishment of longer term frameworks.


Contemporary A very recent case study for architecture that responds to the

resilient lower floor uses

challenge of living with water is Architectenbureau Marlies

road and tramway

Rohmer’s Steigereiland development in Amsterdam (figure 21). This development is being built in the Ijmeer to the east of Amsterdam, on one of a series of new islands forming an urban extension to the city, known as Ijburg. Ijburg is an archipelago of seven islands constructed from dredged sand and intended to be occupied, once completed, by 45,000 people and provide 12,000 jobs. The island extension was originally proposed in the 1960s but plans were shelved until the 1990s when population pressures in Amsterdam forced a reassessment of the city’s expansion. The islands are bisected by both a main road and a tramline that connects them to the city as well as a number of pedestrian and bicycle bridges.

floating houses alongside pontoons

artificial island figure 21 - Steigereiland site plan


stilt buildings

Steigereiland itself is the first island in the chain and closest to the centre of Amsterdam. Rohmer’s scheme lies partially on this artificial island and partially floats in an area surrounded by dykes to the north of the transport spine (figure 22). The scheme protected escape route


artificial island stilt buildings - housing above shops resilient lower floor uses - shop etc

floating houses on concrete pontoons

figure 23 - Steigereiland typologies

comprises a mix of both programmes from houses to apartments, offices and shops and a mix of water-tolerant typologies (figure 23). Uses that are more resilient to flooding, shops and offices, are

figure 22 - floating houses at Steigereiland


located on the ground floor of buildings that line the perimeter

the scheme successful, that there is no sense of isolation and that it

of the site, with apartments above. On the shoreline, more

is “the foundation of the city, its social and technical organisation,

apartments that blur the edge of the dry land extend out over the

that make the project possible.” (Architecture Today, p.17). Foges

water on stilts. Finally housing units, individual homes, attached

also points out that another factor, crucial in the success of the

dwellings and more apartments, constructed in timber, float on

project, is a perceived national consensus in the Netherlands to

concrete rafts, attached to jetties and bridges that stretch out into

work collectively to combat the problems of living with water

an enclosed area of the Ijmeer, able to move up and down on steel

and achieve the incredibly high level of coordination for such a

piles in response to changing water levels. The floating houses were

complex project to succeed (ibid). For a scheme of this type to

constructed in a shipyard and towed to site, they have no means of

succeed in the UK it may be questionable whether such a high

propulsion and are intended to remain in-situ, fostering a sense of

level of coordination can be achieved, this relates back to the

permanence to counteract their vertically mobile nature and avoid

argument presented in the RIBA’s Retreat... that a coordinating

the nature of a transient community. The intention has been to

body is needed in the UK to successfully respond to the threats of

create a scheme that will appear as an addition to the city and

climate change (RIBA 2009, p.26).

function as a community There is no attempt to foster a sense of


detachment from the rest of the city and the buildings are mixed

On a much smaller scale, another example of architecture that

to create “a pleasantly varied character” (Rohmer in Architecture

deals with flood risk is the Salt House by Alison Brooks Architects

Today 214, January 2011). Chris Foges argues in Architecture Today

(RIBA Journal November 2005). Completed in 2005, this house

that this sense of relationship to the rest of the city is what makes

is situated on the Essex coast in an area at significant risk of

flooding from the sea. This building is an example of an approach

This was agreed due to the floating pile method of construction

that combines both short and long term measures to combat the

that has been used. The house is constructed as a steel portal frame

threat of flooding. In the short term the building is designed to be

sitting on a ground floor slab, which was cast on top of the piles

resilient to flood waters; electrical supplies are brought down from

and a bed of solid foam, which was then removed to leave the slab suspended. In the event of a long term rise in sea level the piles supporting the house can be cut and the entire building can be jacked up to a higher level and additional caps added to the piles to support this new level (figure 24). The building is designed to

piles cut

house jacked up

caps added to piles

figure 24 - Salt House lifting method

allow flood waters to flow beneath it and remain occupied during short periods of flooding.

the first floor to supply the ground floor, doors are designed to

On an individual level this design seems to meet the EA’s

be fitted with extra panels to hold back the water and the sewage

requirements to defend against future flood risk. However, as an

system is designed to prevent waste flowing back into the house. As

example that could be adopted on a widespread scale, the notion

a long-term strategy the building was constructed 500mm above

of jacking up the entire building is impractical, indeed in the

the current flood risk level, a level lower than that recommended

article it is mentioned that although the EA approved the flood

by the Environment Agency (EA).

management strategy for the house, they did note that although the house met current requirements, they believed that in the event


of a breach of the sea wall, it would be impossible to lift the house in time to avoid the rising water level. While obviously an example of intriguing house design (figure 25) - the building having been awarded the RIBA Manser Medal for the best one-off house (RIBA Online) - it is also an example of innovative methods being used to deal with the letter of the law regarding flood protection, rather than a practical solution. The reality of this project highlights the need for a powerful body to coordinate and control development in areas at risk of flooding to avoid this kind of solution that on the surface appears to be acceptable but fails to deal with the threats outlined in the earlier chapters. figure 25 - Alison Brooks’ Salt House


Speculative The rising awareness and public and political interest in climate change and its resultant effects has spawned a massive variety of speculative projects that attempt to look at possible future scenarios and sometimes suggest solutions. One branch of these projects is a series of fantastical images produced by Studio Linfors, Squint Opera and for the London Futures exhibition which show the results of extreme climate change on familiar landmarks around the world where New York’s Times Square is re-imagined as a Venetian landscape, St Paul’s is transformed into a natural swimming pool and people fish outside London churches (figures 26 & 27). These images, although highly unrealistic, are useful in provoking thought about the possibility of significant changes coming about as a result of climate change - another way of overcoming the false security described by Lewis and Kelman (2009). Hopefully these images will encourage people figure 26 - Studio Linfors’ image of a flooded Times Square 45

to imagine solutions to problems that we may be facing, but are also valuable in proposing positive views of future adaptation rather than viewing the changes as disastrous. One project that has more of a practical application is Anthony Lau’s masters project for a new maritime city within the Thames Estuary (figure 28), this project suggests using redundant oil industry infrastructure and obsolete ships to create a new floating city within the estuary. This proposal would site new living accommodation where demand is greatest, meeting economic and social issues as White and Howe (2002) demand. It would also satisfy Lewis and Kelman’s (2009) concern that major engineering projects give people a false sense of security about the threat of flooding by exposing the inhabitants constantly to the water. However, the solution is so extreme and large in scale that it risks creating a new false sense of security, that threats from climate change are inconsequential due to the massive new floating infrastructure created and therefore efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions figure 27 - Squint Opera’s image of fishing 46

at St Mary Woolnoth in London

are unimportant because the effects have already been overcome.

smaller vessels and that would give the area a unique identity, if a

In proposing the recycling of ships, the scheme on the surface does

rather industrial one. Finally the scale of this proposal means that it

seem cheaper than massive engineering solutions and this has to

would again need the level of coordination and strategic leadership

be balanced against the argument that the scrap value of the ships

suggested by Retreat‌ (2009), but also offers both a relatively figure 28 - Anthony Lau’s Maritime City

may far outweigh their value as real estate, depending on the future

quick solution using existing structures that can be extended into

population pressures in the region. The proposal also meets lots

a longer term framework.

of the recommendations of the RIBA’s Living with water (2007), in proposing a massive scheme that would also be flexible using


Despite the flaws in this project it has obvious potential and the RIBA’s Retreat‌ paper adopted the notion of reusing oil industry structures in its Attack proposal for the city of Hull, lining the coast with interconnected rigs (2009) (figure 29). While all of these case studies introduce new ways of living with water, they are not perfect solutions individually and most would rely on a massive collective change in attitude and lifestyle amongst people in the UK. However, they do offer a vision of how things could be and the changes needed may well be forced upon people by the unstoppable results of climate change. Any proposals would need to reconcile the advantages and

figure 29 - RIBA’s proposal for Hull to attack

possibilities offered by these examples and consider how they

rising sea levels

would sit with current policy and whether a more innovative coordinating approach is needed. The final part of this study will address this issue.


Conclusion Our current attitude to the threat of flooding regards it as

It is obvious that this sea level rise still presents a massive threat

an infrequent danger throughout the world. During normal

to property and lives, particularly in the South East and that this

conditions water seems a harmless element, flowing smoothly

rise will change the way flooding happens. Over time, rather

through river channels and lapping gently against the sea-shore.

than being an irregular event, measured in 100 or even 1000 year

The severity of flooding events is balanced out by their perceived

instances, flooding will become a seasonal and then a constant

rarity. A flood may be catastrophic, but it occurs so irregularly that

occurrence. In fact, considering it as flooding, merely a temporary

our response to it is characterised by frantic activity to deal with

state of inundation, will become unreasonable; rather the land will

the immediate threat, followed by a gentle slide into disinterest

be claimed by the sea, permanently changing the shape of the UK’s

and public apathy, except among those directly affected and busy

coastline and leading to long-lasting changes in where and how

rebuilding their homes and lives.

people live.

In the process of researching for this study it became clear that

From the literature and policy review it can be seen that there is

in the UK there was a flurry of activity immediately after the

a slowly emerging consensus, framed by the notion that we need

2007 floods, culminating in the Pitt Review (2007) and the

both short term action and a long term framework to deal with

various reports and speculative documents produced by the RIBA.

the more drastic possible changes that we face. However, no single

However, since then, attention has shifted away from the threat of

player has yet taken responsibility for establishing this framework,

flooding, even as global temperatures have crept upwards and sea

planning departments and the Environment Agency disagree over

levels have continued their inexorable rise.

who is ultimately responsible for building in flooding threatened


areas and no overarching body exists. As the pressure exerted by

rather than danger. In taking this new approach we could manage

sea level rise grows greater each year, it will also start to have more

to both mitigate the effects of climate change and its causes, living

strategic impacts on the UK, as demand for farm land begins to

more sustainably in a changed environment.

conflict with population pressures, particularly in the South-east as more intense, but less sustained rainfall and higher extraction

Rohmer’s scheme for Ijburg in the Netherlands is the most

for drinking water continues to impact on the productivity of

comprehensive example of this, that project provides flexible living


space, protected from rising sea levels and manages to create all of this without occupying any additional land. In the UK this

The case studies described and analysed above show that there are

model could be implemented in many of the larger towns and

established and speculative proposals for both dealing with the

cities, the majority of which are situated in coastal or river-side

threat of flooding and the damage it causes to property and at the

locations (figure 30). However, to achieve this the most important

same time creating more space for living that does not take up

factor is a collective political will to create a strategic overarching

valuable agricultural land. There is a potential for architecture to

body that could mediate between different stakeholders such as

contribute to a re-imagining of our entire relationship with water.

planning departments and the Environment Agency and provide

There is an opportunity for us to change our attitude, to learn to

the positive environment and coordination that developers would

live with water and to welcome it. To enjoy its proximity through

require to be willing to invest in schemes as innovative as Rohmer’s.

new forms of architecture that are not threatened by floodwater and to exploit its potential to generate power and provide enjoyment


It is this need for a coordinated and strategic approach that is the most fundamental issue to the success or failure of our adaptation to climate change. Further study needs to go beyond the technological and architectural solutions, which have been demonstrated to exist, and examine the underlying structural issues and investigate White and Howe’s (2002) economic, social and political reasons for why people are willing to live in flood threatened areas. At present, development in areas such as the Thames Gateway, a place at significant threat from sea level rise, seems more of an experiment into what happens when thousands of people decide to live in a volatile river environment. Another opportunity for future study would be to investigate whether specific locations in areas like the Thames Estuary could accommodate schemes like Rohmer’s and demonstrate that any additional costs in construction could be outweighed in the long term by increased flood resistance and the value of any land preserved elsewhere for more productive uses.


following page - figure 30 - a scheme taking advantage of the 52

flooded centre of Bristol



References baca architects. (2009) The LiFE Report. London: BRE Press. Ballard, J. G. (1962) The Drowned World. London: Harper Collins. Brundtland, G. H. (chair) (1987) Our common future by the World Commission on Environment and Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press Cabinet Office (2007) The Pitt Review: Lessons learned from the 2007 floods. London: The Stationery Office. Dartford Borough Council (2011) Dartford’s Core Strategy – Preferred Policy Approaches Document. London: Dartford Borough Council. DCLG (2005) Planning Policy Statement 1: Delivering Sustainable Development. London: The Stationery Office DCLG (2010) Planning Policy Statement 25: Development and Flood Risk. London: The Stationery Office Evans, E. Hall, J. A new climate for flood planning. Ingenia 2004, (21), 51-56. Foges, C. (2011) Liquid Assets. Architecture Today. (214), 12-17.


Hooimeijer, F. Et al (eds). (2009) Atlas of Dutch Water Cities. 2nd Edition. Amsterdam: Sun. IPCC. (2011) Organisation [online]. Available from: [Accessed 3rd April 2011]. Kucharek, J-C. (2005) Salt and vinegar. RIBA journal. 112 (11), 55-62. Lewis, J & Kelman, I. (2009) Housing, Flooding and Risk Ecology. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research. 26 (1), 14-29. London Assembly Environment Committee (2005) London under threat? Flooding risk in the Thames Gateway. London: Greater London Authority. Pachauri, R.K. and Reisinger, A. (Eds.) (2007) Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Geneva: IPCC. RIBA. (2007) Salt House wins RIBA prize for the UKs best architect-designed home [online]. Available from: NewsAndPress/News/AwardsNews/Press/2007/Salt%20House%20wins%20RIBA%20prize%20for%20the%20UKs%20.aspx. [Accessed 3rd April 2011].


RIBA (2007) Building Futures: Living With Water. London: RIBA. RIBA (2009) Facing up to rising sea levels: Retreat? Defend? Attack? London: RIBA. Roaf, S. (2005) Adapting buildings and cities for climate change : a 21st century survival guide. Oxford: Architectural Press Stern, N. H. (2006) The economics of climate change: the Stern review. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. UK Climate Projections. (2009) South East England [online]. Available from: [Accessed 3rd April 2011]. White, I. & Howe, J. (2002) ‘Flooding and the Role of Planning in England and Wales: A Critical Review’, Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 45: 5, 735 — 745



Figure Credits Figures


The centre of Bristol flooded

Bing Maps and author’s work

IPCC prediction of global sea level rise

Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

UKCP09 prediction of sea level rise in S.E. England UK Climate Projections Tewkesbury flooded in 2007

New Orleans flooded

Great Britain following a 70m rise in sea level

Google Maps and author’s work

Aftermath of 1953 storm surge

LifE approach to rising sea levels and flooding

LifE Report

Vernacular response to a flooded landscape

Retreat, defend and attack diagrams

Facing up to rising sea levels: Retreat? Defend? Attack?

Typical flood resilient houses in the UK

Palafito houses in Chile

Surviving fortified houses in Texas

Fortified house design

Author’s work

Badjao people in the Phillipines

Oil Rocks aerial view

Google Maps



Oil Rocks road network

Floatel Superior in a Norwegian fjord

Mobile houseboat in Amsterdam

Stationary houseboats in Vancouver

Steigereiland site plan

Author’s work

Floating houses at Steigereiland figure

Steigereiland typologies

Author’s work

Salt House lifting method

Author’s work

Alison Brooks’ Salt House

Studio Linfors’ image of a flooded Times Square

Squint Opera’s image of fishing in London

Anthony Lau’s Maritime City

RIBA’s proposal for Hull to attack rising sea levels

Facing up to rising sea levels: Retreat? Defend? Attack?

A scheme for the flooded centre of Bristol

Bing Maps and author’s work



Dissertation submission  

undergrad dissertation