Floating House: A Modular Flood Resistant Home For A Changing Climate

As the climate in Australia evolves, the occurrence of extreme flooding challenges the outdated notion of ‘one in 100-year flood’. Now, even regions previously untroubled by floods are facing new risks, compelling us to adapt our built environment for these emerging challenges.

Modscape’s in-house team of architects have designed the Floating House, a passive design concept tailored to combat the rising threat of flood waters.

The design leverages the mobility of modular homes, with fixed guiding piers that adapt to fluctuating water levels. The team’s approach started with an in-depth analysis of flood patterns and their implications for modular housing design. This led to the development of components specifically engineered to address flood conditions.

At the core of The Floating House concept lies an intrinsic adaptability, made possible by modular construction. Continuing to rebuild in the aftermath of floods is not a viable long-term solution, particularly when considering the substantial volume of construction materials that become landfill waste post-flooding. This was starkly evident in Lismore, NSW, where local authorities, contractors, and emergency services were faced with the daunting task of removing over 1,000 tonnes of flood debris daily. A home engineered to adapt to environmental shifts, like the modular Floating House, not only safeguards properties but also contributes to a more sustainable future for areas vulnerable to flooding.

house flooding


Integrating service connections into a structure that moves with water levels presents a unique set of challenges. Traditional static and rigid connection points need to be reconsidered within the constraints of authority and regulatory requirements.Innovative design integrations are required to work around such complexities.

While the internal house services will follow a conventional setup, each main external connection will have its own distinct characteristics. These considerations ensure the Floating House’s functionality and resilience post-disaster, facilitating rapid recovery and reoccupation.

Flood Attack Level (FAL)

A recent report by the Climate Council found that 1 in 25 homes was at risk of becoming uninsurable by 2030.

As our design team worked on concepts, it became increasing apparent that a wider discussion regarding how we plan and design for future homes in areas subject to flood-risk will become necessary and essential.

The success of responding to bushfires using a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) rating system led our team to ponder if a similar system – a Flood Attack Level (FAL) – for dealing with potential threats of flooding to residential areas would be worthy of greater consideration.

A Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) is a means of measuring the severity of a building’s potential exposure to ember attack, radiant heat and direct flame contact. It is then used as the basis for the requirements for construction to improve protection of building elements from bushfire attack.

Flood maps and building standards need to be updated concurrently in order to accurately risk assess an area. As with bushfires, it’s impossible to avoid building altogether in all floodplains or flood zones, therefore developing homes that can be built to adequately cope with the environmental conditions is a necessary response. A FAL system would provide the basis for designing homes that are protected in these events.

“These methods are effective up to a point but often involve substantial investments in infrastructure. The question for us was is there a more cost-effective, site-specific answer? Working passively with the rising waters – allowing the house to ‘float’ while the water passes underneath – presents a solution with great potential.”

Modscape architect Angus McKinnon on the traditional use of levee barriers for flood defense.

floating house diagram

FAL 05 – Extreme flooding
FAL 04 – High level flooding
FAL 03 – Medium level flooding
FAL 02 – Moderate level flooding
FAL 01 – Low level flooding