An amphibian lives part of its life on land and part in water. An amphibious house is designed to do the same.

“It’s an approach that deals with flooding by allowing a building to float,” says Elizabeth English, professor of architecture at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

She says making a home amphibious can be relatively simple and affordable for homes without basements.

Buoyant blocks are installed under the building. When floodwaters rise, the house rises with it. Vertical rails anchored in the ground ensure it floats straight up and returns to the same spot when the water subsides.

English helped retrofit four rice farmers’ homes in Vietnam.

“It was a huge success,” she says. “The owners were very, very happy with this.”

A few other amphibious homes exist in rural Louisiana and the Netherlands. But current building codes around the world do not cover the approach, so it’s not feasible in most circumstances.

English hopes to change that. She says the strategy could help people who have reasons to remain in flood-prone areas — like Indigenous communities with deep ties to ancestral land.

“So this is a strategy that would allow them to stay in place safely,” she says.

Read: ‘Is it foolish to hold onto my family’s beloved waterfront home?’

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media