Baca on The Telegraph

newsletter Feb 20177-239

‘Turn a flood into a fortune’ Baca featured on The Daily Telegraph

Baca was featured in the article ‘Turn a flood into a fortune: How to make the most of a domestic disaster’ by Emily Brooks published in The Daily Telegraph. If you didn’t get the newspaper on Saturday 27 May 2017 you can still visit their website or read an extract of the article below.


Link to the website (


Every crisis is an opportunity” is a hackneyed phrase from the vocabulary

of business self-help, but there’s some truth to it in this story. Homeowners, faced with the damage that flooding and subsidence can wreak on their properties, are calling in design experts to rebuild and remodel in ways that lessen the devastation should the worst happen again. Not only that, they’re emerging from the crisis with homes that are more architecturally exciting as a result.

“Houses constructed a hundred years ago weren’t built to resist Mother Nature, but now the technology is there and it’s much more doable.”

Architecture firm Baca has become synonymous with building homes on or near water. Its best-known project is an amphibious house on the Thames in Marlow, featured on Grand Designs, that effectively sits in its own dock, and can rise and fall with the water level should a flood occur.

“About a decade ago there was a significant shift in thinking,” says Baca’s director Richard Coutts. “The Environment Agency realised that traditional forms of flood defence weren’t going to work. We now need to be more intelligent with our environment.” His work explores a host of alternatives, including amphibious ones like the one in Marlow, but also houses are simply better designed to cope with flooding. Baca has just received planning permission for a property on the Blackwater Estuary in Essex, granted under the special Paragraph 55 clause for building “exceptional quality or innovative” homes on otherwise no-go sites.

It features an automatic flood gate and a bund that encircles the garden, safeguarding the ground floor. Construction is about to begin on a house that Baca has designed for a riverside site in Henley, for a family whose home there has flooded twice in 14 years. Instead of letting the place dry out and accepting the insurance hike, the owners asked Baca to come up with a new house. Baca’s design is a wonderful example of form following function, its elegant curves serving a critical purpose. “Previously, the building had a square footprint; now it’s a lozenge shape, so it’s become more streamlined to work with the river flow,” says Coutts. “The living spaces and bedrooms are on the first and second floors, which means they have the most wonderful, picturesque vista, and the ground floor is effectively a secondary living space that is a water-tight enclosure. “The water can rise by up to two metres and still not enter, but after that a series of vents allows the water in. As the river recedes, we can pump it out via a series of snorkels, and it’s all designed with flood-resilient materials, so, for example, all the heating and electrics come from above.”

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