New Buoyant Foundation System Hopes to Save Homes from Flooding

One of the biggest losses to the people along the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina was their homes. Now, LSU has unveiled its prototype of an invention to protect homes from floodwaters. You could call them 'floaties' for your home.

Flooding is the most destructive and the deadliest aspect of a hurricane, creating an all too familiar scene like the ones during Hurricane Katrina. Now, wood-framed houses may be equipped with what homeowners can use to avoid those scenes again. A shot-gun style house has been equipped with a buoyant foundation, designed to protect a home from a flood by literally floating the house up above floodwaters. The founder of the Buoyant Foundation Project says it's not a question of if the levee will break again, but when. Elizabeth English says, "And when the levees overtop, if there is a category four or category five storm surge, the levees will not be designed to be able to keep from overtopping in those situations."

A team of engineering students and their professor built what they say can also protect homes in flood-prone areas. Big blocks of polystyrene make the house float, and to avoid the house from floating away, poles are installed in the ground with sleeves that move up and down. Project officials admit this floating foundation won't protect homes from all floodwaters. English says, "This can't deal with a house right on the coastline that is subject to storm surge coming right off the Gulf, but a couple miles inland where the water isn't moving so fast, it could help with that."

However, it's not cheap. It can cost you $20,000 to have the buoyant foundation installed or about $10,000 if you do it yourself. Still, English says it's a better alternative than elevating your home on pylons. She says, "If you elevate your house to eight feet, you could still have a 10-foot flood and your possessions would be destroyed."

Stuart Broussard, one of the LSU students who worked on the project, says, "I think the advantage is having a house that's still only about three feet off the ground instead of 10 to 12. I think you know climbing those stairs everyday is going to get old." Using a new system to help an age old problem. The project's founder wants to install this system on a house in New Orleans to show how it works.