In the last 20 years, the ten worst international flood events alone claimed over 50,000 lives, affected one billion people and resulted in damages in excess of $165 billion. Storm events both worldwide and in the UK are occurring with greater intensity and frequency over the past decade. The failing of recently constructed flood defenses such as those in Cumbria have exposed a growing uncertainty in weather patterns and a weakness in relying on traditional flood defenses alone.
In 2009 we published The LifE ‘Long-term Initiatives for Flood-risk Environments’ Project for Defra marking a fundamental shift from traditional flood prevention towards a non-defensive approach; based on ‘Making Space for Water’ , as well as the highest environmental design standards - Including reducing operational energy, embodied carbon and potable water.
Space is made to store water, and for water to flow through predetermined parts of settlements without significant disruption to peoples lives. The space between buildings, which is designed to flood, could provide other functions, such as recreation or energy generation when not flooded; thus creating multi-functional space and integrated planning. Where housing could not be located within areas of least vulnerability then we developed new building typologies and mitigation measures.
We are a practice based research company. We collaborate with academics, engineers and politicians to advance our understanding and affect change in the field of architecture and the built environment. The ranges across three core areas: enable, design and build, flood resilient homes and communities.
Richard Coutts & Robert Pattison
“We have no choice but to live with water; we do however have a choice about how we design with it.”
-Richard Coutts, Principal, Baca Architects
Flooding and Climate Challenge
'We lobby Government for policy change.'
Our Planning strategies make space for water and our buildings offer flood resilience and future adaptability.
Our Methodology and R&D History
'CLEAR STRATEGIES TO UNLOCK SITES ON FLOODPLAINS OR BY RIVERS TO PROVIDE HOMES'
Baca Architects’ built the UK’s first amphibious house. An amphibious house rests on the ground on fixed foundations but whenever a flood occurs, it rises up in its dock and floats there buoyed by the floodwater. The replacement dwelling is located in the floodplain designated as Flood Zone 3b, which means it has a greater than 1 in 100 probability of flooding, and a Conservation Area. The new house has been designed to cope with up to 2.5m of floodwater, well above the predicted flood levels and future projected flood levels for the area. A carefully laid out garden also acts as a natural early warning flood system. The project was followed and televised on Kevin McCloud’s Grand Designs. The Amphibious house represents an important milestone in the practice’s development – demonstrating proof on concept both in terms of Planning acceptability and advancements in building technology. Earlier this year the Client kindly reported, “the house continues to rise and fall without any intervention”. Baca have since built a second amphibious property in Salcombe, UK.
The Dutch municipality of Nijmegen commissioned Baca Architects to draw up proposals for of an extensive dyke relocation programme to make ‘Room for the River’”, inspired by the practice’s LifE project for the British Government. Construction began in 2013 on a €351 million flood relief channel between Nijmegen and Lent in the Netherlands at the threshold with Germany and is now home to new residents enjoying the floodable neighbourhood.
The holistic project includes a major dyke relocation and a new 1km-long flood relief channel (designed for an extreme discharge up to 16.000 m3/s without causing river floods) as part of the national ‘Room for the River’ programme to reduce flood-risk and support urban growth in Lent.
Housing supply has become one of the most critical issues facing cities. “Buoyant Starts”, a collaboration between Baca Architects and Floating Homes Ltd, aimed to address the housing crisis in Greater London by providing high-quality, prefabricated floating homes at an affordable price on the un-used water space of the capital. It was selected one of the ten winning ideas in the NLA international ideas competition New Ideas for Housing and the “Chichester Floating” home, built in 2015, was UK’s first building Regulations Compliant floating home. This prototype now
Stratford-on-Avon District Local Plan required 3,500 new homes in the town by 2031. Baca were appointed to unlock a brownfield in flood zone 3 where numerous developers, over the past 15 years, had failed. Rather than try to push the water to the edges of the development the design homes are elevated on piles and space for water is provided beneath the buildings. The access road gently slopes up into the development of the highway at a height of approx. 1.6m above the adjacent ground level to provide level access to the majority of the plots. Now complete in 2020, the gardens form part of a SuDs - Sustainable Urban Drainage System that have been embraced by the new owners as both a functional and of aesthetic value. For the developer this has added value to the sale price that they have been able to command
Richard Coutts, co-founder and Director of Baca Architects, was made a lifetime Fellow of RIBA (the Royal Institute of British Architects) for making a major contribution to the world design and architecture. This recognized both Coutts’ role in the Core City’s Advisory Group for Her Majesty’s Government and his lobbying on behalf of the RIBA to require building resilience measures to play a more prominent role in the UK’s Building Regulations.
As Clients’ sought to build multiple flood resilient units - Baca advanced the LifE philosophy to include the “Blue Drempel” . Derived from the Dutch word for threshold, it is a non-defensive planning framework that locates architectural housing types according to flood risk: floating within the river; amphibious; elevated; resilient (dry proof and wet proof) to traditional to correspond with diminishing flood risk; and to connect these with the least amount of road and servicing infrastructure to allow as much space for natural landscaping. This philosophy will provide c200 homes in Hull and a further c1400 homes in Portsmouth.
The practice envisages large communities that are holistically planned to be better prepared for flooding and climate change. Dwellings will be low carbon and organized around multifunctional landscapes that will help control surface water flooding or act as a large flood storage area. New communities will be made up of streets of flood resilient dwellings located on the highest ground with amphibious homes adjacent to waterbodies subject to flooding. The long-term goal is to design communities that function as normal, preserving continuity of daily life during both droughts and floods. Our intention, through our research and built work is that we can demonstrate that the future is already here.
The Brit List - Hotel - Architect of the Year - Finalist - 2021
Housing Awards - Best Urban Development Outside London - Commendation - 2021
BUILD AWARDS – The UK’s Leading Expert in Flood Resilient Architecture - 2020
Barclays, Developing Resilience Award - Highly Commended - 2019
Design and Build Awards, Most outstanding in Floating / Water-Based Architecture 2019
Green Solution Awards (France) - Smart Building Prize - 2018
Dover Commonwealth Memorial Win - 2017
Urban Design Practice of the Year (Joint winner) – Urban Design Group – 2016
RIBA - House of the Year - Shortlisted for Water Lane (Flood Resilient House) and Amphibious House – 2016
RIBA Practice based research awards – Commendation for the Amphibious House
NLA New Ideas for Housing Winner - 2015
AR / MIPIM Masterplanning Winner - 2014
BD Architect of the Year Finalist - 2014
RIBA President’s Award for Research - 2014
London Design Awards Gold - 2014
Waterways Renaissance Award - 2013
Water Renaissance Awards (Shortlist - Live) - 2013
World Architect News 21 Most influential Practices Long list - 2012
Evening Standard Best New Homes Commendation - 2010
LABC Sustainability, Innovation and Best Home Finalist - 2010
International Urban Design Awards (Germany) Bronze Medal - 2010
Green Dot Sustainability Award (USA) Third Place - 2010
RIBA President’s Award for Practice Based Research - Winner 2009
Docklands Barges, British Waterways - Winner 2009
DEFRA Innovation fund for the Life Project 2007-2009
International Design Awards (USA) ‘By Land and By Sea’ Winner 2008
Flood-proof pilot Dordrecht, Holland - Winner 2007
RIBA Sustainable Living by Design - Winner 2006
FMB Certificate of Excellence, South West region 2006
Baca published the 320page book, entitled ‘Aquatecture. Buildings and Cities designed to live and work with water’. This book brought together over a decades worth or research, findings, guidance and emerging built work under one cover. The first part of the book explores the historical relationship between water and architecture over the centuries. Chapters proceed to assess how this relationship has evolved over time and introduces the reader to a range of new techniques that will revolutionise the way we think about water, design and urban planning. Amphibious housing, flood resilient buildings, zero carbon development, rain gardens, flood storage, SuDs and new methods of waterfront design are discussed and their effectiveness assessed. Practical, technical advice sits alongside truly groundbreaking and ambitious ideas for the future. This book is an ideal reference tool for all architects, urban designers, planners and sustainability experts who have an interest in creating a beautiful, sustainable, intelligent and pleasurable built environment on land, in water and with water. (edited)
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A global pandemic brought new ways of working and collaborations. Baca’s commissions expanded internationally with the Australian Underwater Discovery Centre 2km off the coast of Western Australia and proposals for floating community of 200 homes in the Hudson Harbour, USA. In the UK, the staycation market grew, and the practice submitted designs for major leisure and hospitality resorts in the north and south of England. Flood resilient homes remained our staple with new applications lodged and new homes started.
The Blue Drempel philosophy helped provide the organisational strategy for a riverside site on the Isle of Man. This mixed use scheme is scheduled for submission in Spring 2022