A technological solution to flooding

While the United States keeps having problems with rebuilding New Orleans, the Netherlands is going on a preemptive strike. MSNBC reports that a new housing project in an area of the country unprotected by flood walls has houses that can float in case of a flood.

Unlike the houseboats that line many Dutch canals or the floating villages of Asia, the several dozen homes are being built on solid ground. But they also are designed to float on flood water.

Each house is made of lightweight wood, and the concrete base is hollow, giving it ship-like buoyancy.

With no foundations anchored in the earth, the structure rests on the ground and is fastened to 15-foot-long mooring posts with sliding rings, allowing it to float upward should the river flood. All the electrical cables, water and sewage flow through flexible pipes inside the mooring piles.

I don’t know if this solution is feasible in New Orleans, where the ground may be too marshy for the mooring posts to hold in case of another flood. The houses will still float, but they’ll drift with the current, which will probably result in numerous house-crashes.

On the other hand, the article’s insinuation that “these homes are built for climate change” is misplaced. If climate change is halted in time, so that it only results in more floods, then these homes will indeed turn out to be good investments. But if large masses of ice melt and are dumped into ocean water, causing a global sea level rise, then the mooring posts will be far too short.

Of course, it will probably be easily possible to build houses with taller mooring posts, say 50 meters as opposed to 5. But as long as they’re only available for Dutch houses, as opposed to Bangladeshi houses and Bangladeshi agricultural fields, they will do nothing to mitigate the problem. In fact, by reducing the impact of the problem on the first world, they may end up lulling it into complacency, thus aggravating the problem.

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