Upscaling the concept of "floating homes"
The Dundee University and Resilience Solution, the research implementation partner from Bangladesh, have won the 2019 RISK Award. Their intention is to further develop a unique "Disaster Resilient Floating Homes” concept on the coast of Bangladesh. The homes will withstand natural catastrophes and other effects of climate change thus serving the resilience of their inhabitants. The houses are also able to provide new and sustainable livelihood options.
Bangladesh is particularly affected by climate change in the form of floods, erosion, cyclones and sea level rise. More than 35 million people live along the coast, some of them just a few centimetres above sea level. According to studies undertaken by the University of Dundee, about 30% of the area of Bangladesh is threatened by climate change effects. Therefore, it is essential that the inhabitants adopt new coping techniques. Housing and homes must be re-thought, work and livelihoods altered. The floating homes concept of the RISK Award offers a comprehensive solution to this problem. If there is a flood they simply float above it. In huge floods when things get really serious they are self-sustaining as they generate their own power with solar panels and wind turbines. They can resist cyclones and are made from renewable resources. They also provide opportunities for daily living and even create livelihoods through vertical farming methods, aquaponics and integral hen-runs. What at first glance appeared to be the perfect solution for adaptation to climate change in Bangladesh turned out to be rather more complex in practice.
A range of approaches in search of the solution
As well as the careful selection of the site of the next project, a further important point is the definition of the most suitable design for the house. The individual, family-run houses of the pilot phase proved not to be the best solution. They interfered too much with the complex local social system, resulting in exclusion, envy, and distrust. The project team is actually discussing alternative options. For instance, a floating school could solve many of the existing social problems and create win-win situations. Pupils can learn how to deal with climate change, how alternative methods of farming can generate income, and how renewable forms of energy can be used – even in the housing context. The school can become partially self-financing through the income generated from the building itself. As all the children of the village would benefit, envy and distrust would be significantly reduced. The floating home could also be offered to a rural development partner working in the village. They could use it as an institutional home, for educational programmes related to the floating homes concept, and even could think of shelter-options during disasters.
The overall objective is to increase the awareness and popularity of the concept. This means a paradigm shift in "where" and "how" people can live along the coasts of Bangladesh. This change can only be achieved if people really are intrinsically convinced. And changes in social behaviour normally take a certain time. In many locations of the country a race against time as a result of external stressors caused by disasters and climate change has started. The innovative floating homes can be a game changer – not only in Bangladesh.
27 August 2019