Buoyant Housing in Brazil

Community housing that floats on a river in the Amazon

Buoyant Housing in Brazil

Community housing that floats on a river in the Amazon

Vernacular forms and local materials set apart Buoyant Housing, a residential complex for a low-income coastal community in Manaus, Brazil, currently living in perilous and unsafe conditions.

The design differs from other social housing projects in the area, which usually don’t take into account social, urban and cultural factors. It is informed by its unique context, featuring key assets like floating platforms which are ubiquitous on the Amazon riverfront.

This site-centric approach supports local lifestyles, calls on indigenous know-how and promotes community engagement.


Community spaces are shared by all neighbours in the complex.
© Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

The architecture is stratified according to programmes and access: the lower levels are more public, while the top is private.
© Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

The current homes on this land parcel are at risk of collapse or exposed to flooding. They also lack proper sewage and waste management systems which constitute serious health hazards for occupants.

To correct such shortfalls, the proposed scheme incorporates both traditional methods and new technologies.

Merging age-old wisdom with contemporary expertise

Buoyant Housing draws on traditional typologies suited to the climate and practices of the region. It addresses the fluctuating water levels buildings along the Amazon coastline cope with sporadically, depending on the season. It also promises financial sustenance by providing fishing infrastructure.

The entire floating complex is elevated and connected by decks. The lowest floor rests on logs and is reserved for leisure. Social and cultural amenities are located on the middle deck while the residences occupy the upper levels.

Stilted architecture is common to the Tropics. It facilitates air movement and keeps living spaces dry. Here, that strategy also serves to minimise the impact on the surrounding habitats and vegetation. The structure is made from reforested wood which absorbs carbon dioxide and produces less waste during construction.


The structure is built from Itaúba, a resilient low-impact and low-cost wood, sourced locally.
© Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

The building will also include its own mechanical waste treatment and water recycling systems, along with rainwater harvesting tanks and solar energy panels.

Building community and ensuring scalability

Community plays a major role in the project’s execution. Artisans and businesses in the area have been tapped for everything from the supply of building materials to their use on-site.

A modular method of construction, devised by the architect, ensures that the proposal can be built upon by the inhabitants over time and can even be adapted to other sites.

To meet varying needs, the dwelling units are sized 36 m2 or 54 m2. Their roofs are double-layered with ventilated space and deep overhangs for passive cooling indoors.


Diagrams show the integration of technologies and environmental benefits of stilt architecture with deep overhanging roofs.
© Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

Educational, social and commercial facilities will bring the community of dwellers together. Other recreational areas will be added on the opposite side of the river to create a brand-new linear park.

The development will offer comfort and safety not only to its residents but to the entire vicinity as amenities on the grounds will be public and accessible to all.

Buoyant Housing signals that modernity and tradition are not incompatible. In fact, its approach is highly desirable because it is replicable. Its impact is modest, easy to build, economical and benefits the community and ecology, thereby ticking many boxes on the sustainability checklist.

The project was received the first prize at the Holcim Next Generation Awards in 2020.

Post sponsored by the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

An Ideas project is typically unbuilt but offers noteworthy ideas about sustainable design and construction. It can be a competition entry that was never constructed, or an experimental prototype of, say, a façade system, or a concept, say, the design of future cities.

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Fact Sheet

Disclaimer: Location provided as reference only. Exact site may differ.

Under the Köppen climate classification, these are ‘A’ climate types. Tropical climates have warm, moist conditions year-round, with high precipitation and narrow diurnal temperature swings. These climates occur typically between 15° N to 15° S latitude. Here, the available net solar radiation is large and relatively constant from month to month resulting in both high temperatures (generally in excess of 18° C / 64° F) and a virtual absence of thermal seasons. In many locations, annual rhythm is provided by the occurrence of wet and dry seasons.

There are no performance metrics available for this project.

Architect
Danielle Khoury Gregorio
KHOURY Arquitetura

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