Today’s Solutions: March 03, 2024

We decided to dust off this older article with an incredible solution to sea-level rise. 

Situated entirely on water, the lake village of Ganvie in Benin is often dubbed the “Venice of Africa”. And just like the historical Italian city, the village is increasingly threatened by sea-level rise. To stay afloat, the communities in the village have been constructing floating wooden houses. But since these structures are often poorly constructed and cannot withstand the high tides, they tend to get worn out over time, endangering the lives of the local people.

Think like a pufferfish 

To find a more enduring solution, Iranian architect Sajjad Navidi has recently revealed the “Puffer Village,” a design concept consisting of smart houses that adapt to rising sea levels.

As the name indicates, the idea takes inspiration from the anatomy of the pufferfish, which is known to inflate like a balloon with either water or air as a defense against predators. Imitating this defense mechanism, the concept envisions a floating system of houses that can inflate and deflate in response to sea-level rise and harsh weather.

As described by designboom, the smart mechanism works with the help of two sensors: one that responds to water levels and another to high waves. On rainy days with high tide, the water level sensor is triggered, activating an air fan under the floating house. This causes a “balloon skin” to fill up with air, letting the body rise to the surface.

During stormy weather, the other sensor activates a set of pores on the substructure base, letting water inside the skin. This increases the structure’s weight and stability to avoid damage or houses drifting off. When the conditions are stable, the balloon shell closes off, and the system starts to look like typical houses with flat roofs.

The houses would generate their own electricity via a tidal energy system installed below each structure. Additionally, the upper part of the balloon skin would feature flexible solar panels, generating power from the sun.

This story was originally published on January 7, 2022. 

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