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Can Flexible Architecture Solve Housing Problems in Nigeria? (4)

After a long and treacherous journey, I have come to the end of my rant about affordable housing for my home city, Lagos. In this final part, I will discuss one final idea although not in-depth. This article will discuss floating architecture. Floating architecture isn’t a new concept in Nigeria. From the shanty houses in Makoko to the villages in the riverine parts of the south-south, it has always existed in one crude form or another.

With its popularity, it is a wonder how it has not been readapted for widespread use around the country. I will, however, discuss a successful model currently in the Netherlands

Waterbuurt on the IJ River in Amsterdam is another instance where adaptable architecture was implemented. This was done in response to the prevailing topographical conditions in the Netherlands. The country is made up of a lot of low lying areas with about 21% of its land area falling below sea level. Over the years, the country has made efforts to keep the water away. These efforts include the construction of dykes and boulders (Cohen, 2015) (Kabat, et al., 2015). In recent years, however, they have begun to think flexible hence the floating houses in Waterbuurt (Archdaily, 2011). 

It is a collection of 75 floating houses planned by developer Arthur van der Vegt in 2011. The development shows a good example of how housing could be provided in low lying urban areas of places prone to flooding. (Peter Paul Witsen, Westerlengte, 2012) . The houses are built on pylons that act as the foundation and the superstructure is constructed with a lightweight steel framework which is then filled with wooden or plastic panels. They are usually constructed off-site and drawn to the location. They are then anchored to the surrounding jetties. 

Image by Wojek Gurak

Lagos bears similar characteristics to this Amsterdam as about 22% of its land area is made up of water bodies. These water bodies are currently being used for residential and commercial purposes although this is in the form of made-up land from land reclamation activities. 

Land reclamation is a very common activity in various coastal areas around the world including Lagos. Recent studies have shown that land reclamation activities have some negative effects on the adjoining areas. According to an OSPAR commission report published in 2008, land reclamation has resulted in the loss of some coastal marine habitats as well as disrupting the ecosystems within those areas. This has negatively impacted the organisms that are present in the affected area (OSPAR Commission, 2008). In addition to this, land reclamation activities can cause water tables to rise and affect the freshwater- seawater interface (Guo and Jiao, 2007). Asides from these effects, some parts of Lagos have also suffered from severe flooding because of excessive land reclamation (Nwafor, 2017).

Given these consequences, it is advisable for the government to explore other means of housing people in the coastal areas such as floating houses.

Do you think we’re ready as an AEC industry (in Nigeria) to adopt floating houses as a mainstream housing type? I would like to hear your thoughts.

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