Coping with sea level rise flooding and sea level rise-intensified storm surge requires innovation and imagination in the public and private sectors. Among the solutions now being implemented in areas with real estate that floods or soon may experiencing flooding are building and raising seawalls, installing pumps and storm drains, setting aside parks and open lands to absorb and store flood water, and elevating homes, roads and critical infrastructure.
Another option that’s been in use in areas that have long experienced severe beach erosion and storm surge flooding is building houses on stilts. This has been the go-to solution in areas like coastal Louisiana and the Outer Banks of North Carolina for decades. With the oceans continuing to rise and storm surge becoming and even greater threat, areas that didn’t rely on stilts as a solution to protecting houses and other structures are now considering them.
This month, Dezeen — the self-described “world’s most popular and influential architecture, interiors and design magazine” — has a feature article by reporter Ben Dreith about a 4,500 square foot home Brillhart Architecture built on stilts for an owner who owned a house that was heavily damaged during Hurricane Irma in 2017.
The modern home is built on stilts that range from very slender to large enough to form circular rooms reinforced with rebar that can also be used as storage spaces. The entire first floor has usable living space and open areas that are all designed to quickly shed flood water.
The article gives a great overview of how a stilts can help a house cope with rising waters. There are limits, however, to their usefullness. For example, a house built on stilts is of little use if the property and surrounding roads are frequently or permanently inundated and/or access to fresh water and sewage service, electricity or other utilities becomes impossible due to flooding. These are the types of issues buyers and owners should ponder when they’re considering building a house on stilts in an area vulnerable to sea level rise flooding and storm surge.