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On Universal Design in Flood Areas

As you have heard, we have experienced devastating floods over 75% of Queensland in the last month.   There was an interesting article in “The Australian” in the last week, about the alternative design of the Queenslander ie raising it high so that homes can still be built in flood areas.  Architect Michael Rayner provided some thoughts featured in the article – http://www.theaustralian.com.au/in-depth/queensland-floods/river-city-architect-michael-rayner-washed-away-now-looking-for-new-ways-to-stay-dry/story-fn7iwx3v-1225992641072.

An issue I have been pondering is… how we can design homes to suit the access needs of older people and people with disabilities while also catering for the weather? How does Universal Design “fit” in this circumstance?

I wonder whether homes in New Orleans have UD features incorporated into their design?

Any comments?

6 Responses

  1. We have similar conditions in many coastal and flood zone areas in the US. With single family detached housing, and at the elevations that you suggest, the options for access are limited to long ramps or elevators, the latter subject to more possible damage with flooding.

    There are many more possibilities with multi-family, higher density, mixed use or block sized developments.

    With the first three, whole projects can be raised. Or point-of-access can be used where vertical access can be at one point, with horizontal access to other nearby by residences or uses – all raised up, connected and close together. We often see this with split level projects now: parking at one-half level down, business or residence at one half level up. On one barrier island in the US, they require that all block sized projects must raise the whole block above the flood zone.

    My harsh environmental response to development in areas where nature is telling you not to: If you have to make projects unusable by a lot of people (such as new orleans where there are a lot of sfd homes going in on stilts), change your whole plan using options above or make it park land or agricultural land.

  2. > The flooding has been covered extensively here. This has been a big
    > problem in the US too since new rules were put into place for new
    > construction in coastal flood plains. Since we don’t have accessibility
    > requirements for single family homes it has been pretty much ignored as an
    > issue except on federal projects. These are rarely single family. I
    > visited New Orleans to see what was happening last year. Where required,
    > long ramps are being used to make homes that are a meter above grade
    > accessible. Some houses are built 3-4M above grade due to a very high
    > flood plain. The only solution there is a lift. In the Nederlands there
    > are some examples of houses that can float. I think this is a good idea
    > for high flood plains. See our book, Inclusive Design: a Pattern Book for
    > ideas for block design to address this problem.

  3. Wally Dutcher

    I took an opportunity, which was volunteered on my part, to redesign some proposed homes for a redevelopment project in New Orleans. Some of the designs had two story homes with the first floor on an elevated site with steps leading to it while one had a ground floor enclosure which was soley dedicated to garage space. For the home with a severe elevation I simply ran a graded walkway from the front of the home around the side to a rear entry. In all instances, access to upper stories were provided via a widened stairwell for future installation of either a stairchair or an inclined platform lift. In all instances the same footprint and design concept was maintained with the exception being that every design followed the dedication of providing access and UD.

  4. Nice to read your replies and see you here in Australia my friends. I am happy to have found this blog. I live here right on the Mississippi in IA-Ill boarder. I am thinking ,after returning from St.Pete and visiting Wally Dutcherr. Does anyone know of a lift that is waterproof ? If a lift was designed that could float (instead of the house which is cool but, lets face it,very special and pricey) it would raise to the water level which is the entry point at any given time. If it had a mechanicm that worked when under water at least it could take you up to the floor level. Of course if the whole house is underwater its a moot point but most likely in flood plains the house might be raised by code(or experience anyway). I have an idea……… This could be one example of a product re-design,designed for those with special needs that has residual benefits for everyone.Similar to the spin off benefits of curbcuts. has anyone heard of such a product? Is therre a chair lift that floats and works in the water?

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