Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This piece came out in the October 7, 2009 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.
The Dutch are considered the world’s foremost experts on keeping land dry. Their system of dikes and pumps serves as models for conquering nature to many low-lying communities around the world. But as the world tries to emulate Dutch water management techniques, a group of innovative Dutch architects are creating radical designs that depart from the old concept of keeping the water out.
Koen Olthuis of Waterstudio, NL, one of the leading proponents of the new approach to dealing with water, explains why climate change makes it necessary to rethink established ways,
“…we are actually trying to move away from fighting against the water. Now we are beginning to let the water in and we are starting to make friends with the water. We have to do that because eventually the dikes won’t be able to keep up and all of this part of Holland will be flooded. So, it’s better just to work with the water instead of fighting against it.”
And so Olthuis and like-minded thinkers are designing floating and amphibious houses, buildings, and even islands.
Floating houses are like houseboats; they float on water all the time. Amphibious houses, on the other hand, are structures that sit on dry land, built on a hollow concrete base for buoyancy, and attached to mooring posts that allow the houses to float upwards, and in place, when there is flooding.
There are structures that are simply built in the wrong places. Lack of urban planning and poor zoning have allowed housing developments like Provident Village to mushroom in flood plains like the Marikina Valley.
It’s too late to flood-proof structures already built, but new buildings and development projects can be constructed with flooding in mind.
Maasbommel, a village about a hundred miles from Amsterdam, is in an area prone to severe flooding. In the 1990s, two floods devastated the area and forced the evacuations of thousands. Prospects for rehabilitating the area looked dim until a Dutch construction company, Dura Vermeer, decided to start a housing project consisting of floating and amphibious houses. Today, a new water-friendly community sits on the banks of the Meuse River in Maasbommel.
The project, although experimental and small—15 floating and 35 amphibious houses plus a floating greenhouse—has attracted international attention. BBC news reported that officials from New Orleans visited Maasbommel to see how these houses worked. But floating and amphibious houses are only the beginning.
Koen Olthuis and his partner Paul van de Camp are building a series of floating islands for the ruler of Dubai.
“Each island is stable. There’s some damping and mooring systems underneath it, so if you’re living on such an island, it feels exactly the same as a normal house. One or two days a year, when there’s a big storm, you may feel a little bit of shaking, but 97 percent of the time it’s absolutely the same as a normal house,” said Olthuis.
Olthuis has also submitted designs for a floating beach, four floating mosques that will be tethered to the islands, a floating terminal for cruise ships, and a 400–foot-tall floating hotel.
The point is, nature cannot be conquered. We just have to learn how to deal creatively with whatever it gives us.