The lift (low income flood-proof technology) house pilot project was designed and constructed by Prithula Prosun in Dhaka, Bangladesh as an innovative solution for sustainable housing for low income communities in flood prone areas. Millions are displaced and many lose lives during severe floods due to the overflowing of rivers, inadequate drainage and monsoon rain in Bangladesh. Experts of climate change predict that flooding will worsen as the Himalayan glaciers melt at an increased rate pushing excess water through the river systems of Bangladesh. Floods cause the most damage to the low income population who live in informal settlements throughout the urban centers of the country.
A result of her Master’s thesis in Architecture from the University of Waterloo, Prosun designed the lift house to float upwards with rising water levels due to floods and water logging, and return to ground level as the water recedes. The project was made possible after being awarded a research grant from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Instead of restricting the passage of water, the amphibious structure works with nature to achieve protection from floods. With the consequences of our exploitation of the environment in sight, the lift house is designed to be completely self sustaining with no connection to the city’s service systems. The lift house is a new approach to designing low income communities. Instead of relying on the already struggling service systems in the city of Dhaka, the individual house is designed to provide basic services to its residents throughout the year in order to achieve minimal effects on its surroundings. Buoyancy is achieved by two different methods that allow the house to float with rising water levels: A hollow Ferro cement foundation for one house and a bamboo frame foundation filled with used plastic water bottles in the other. The service spine of the house is a static structure that provides the vertical guidance and stability to the two amphibious bamboo houses. The service spine collects and filters rainwater during the rainy season and further recycles this water through biosand filtration to be used throughout the year. Electricity is derived from two 60W solar panels for lighting and fans. The shared composting toilet allows the residents to create compost from human waste that can be sold or applied to the vegetable garden after 10 years of use. Urine is directed to the garden as a source of nutrients through an underground pipe system. Bamboo was the chosen material for the two dwellings for its excellent environmental benefits and low cost. The lift house pilot project was tested successfully during the inauguration on January 26, 2010 and now home to two families.