SHIFTboston blog» Blog Archive » Floatyard – housing for hurricane prone areas.

Floatyard – housing for hurricane prone areas.

How would you solve the problem of creating housing in areas that are susceptible to hurricanes? Design firm Perkins+Will recently submitted a design that won a 2013 P/A Award. Their design proposes a floating multifamily housing on a 72,000- square-foot pier in Charlestown, Mass., at the edge of Boston Harbor called, Floatyard.

Ed Nardi, President of Cresset Development also worked with Perkins+Will on the Floatyard design recently spoke with SHIFTboston and told us more about the project.


SB: What was your process and inspiration for designing the Floatyard?

Ed Nardi: As a developer always thinking of creative housing typology in order to create buzz and interest from perspective renter/buyer; specifically the idea of floating housing was borne out of a visit to Amsterdam and seeing some of their floating townhouses along the inner harbor that were new to the area and of course their barge housing which is scattered throughout the canals in the city. Unique housing like this would be very popular – and given its inner city location cars are not a primary concern but imagine pulling your boat up to the side of your residence!

SB: If built, where are other areas in Boston or on the coast that could benefit from this type of housing?

Ed Nardi: Harbors are the best bet for obvious reasons of building on waters that are relatively protected but also have the utility infrastructure to tie into. Fortunately the pricing is really unit driven by count so the concept could be easily sized up or down given the size of the watersheet area. The units can easily be built offsite – which could promote significant savings when one considers the significant premium for union labor in certain core markets and would ultimately have to be reasonably negotiated. The finished units on barges that would then be floated into place and anchored by a series of pilings that allow the housing to float with the tide. We would envision from 6 -12 units of housing per barge.

SB: What are the qualities of Floatyard that make it able to withstand hurricanes and major storms more so than traditional building structures?

Ed Nardi: I am not sure that the physical structures would be any better than conventional land based housing as to withstanding significant wind loads given the structures would be identical as to following standard building code requirements and presumably best engineering practices. However, I believe they certainly could weather any storm surge better than adjacent structures since the concept is barge based and the housing on the barges would simply rise with the tide and not be prone to flooding – certainly water rise and flooding create far more damage than wind in recent hurricanes. There is no basement structure to worry about and all utilities would be above the ground floor line in the units.

SB: How receptive is the city of Boston to building housing like Floatyard and is it a possibility for it to be build soon?

Ed Nardi: Hand in hand with this is figuring out how to permit a project like this in a restrictive permitting environment that is controlled by Chapter 91 statutes in Massachusetts – there is a path to do so with this type of housing under Chapter 91 but it will come down to some fairly finer technical arguments. And like any new idea, one would have to build advocacy from people that have a stake in the harbor so that the permitting process doesn’t get mired down in the permitting process. I believe that this could be built soon

SB: Where (if any) are there other locations that currently use structures that may be similar to Floatyard?

Ed Nardi: I do not know of similar applications to Floatyard but certainly Seattle and California have floating housing stock but limited to two stories I believe, Amsterdam is the largest application of larger scale housing that I have seen to date.

SB: In your opinion, are other parts of the country or world more open to designs like Floatyard being build – please explain your answer.

Ed Nardi: Apparently yes as noted above, change doesn’t come easily in Boston which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. An exacting permitting process coupled with tough local politics and abutter concerns tend to make Boston a “high barrier” city but respectfully it tends to limit overbuilding, promote better planning and architecture and hold higher value but, it does come at a cost of limiting new and innovative ideas in the built environment. When one overlays these typical permitting hurdles with Chapter 91 restrictions as to building adjacent or over the water it can appear very daunting but there is a path to “getting there” – it just requires a fair bit of diligence and a lot of patience!

 Click here to read the story behind Floatyard.

Categories: Architecture, Sustainability, Urban Ecology
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3 Responses to “Floatyard – housing for hurricane prone areas.”

  1. Michael Tyrrell Says:

    Well this is exciting!… The Boston Waterfront has miles of under-utilized frontage where such concepts could “take root” on the watersheet. These include the Mystic, and Little Mystic Rivers, Dorchester Bay, and to a lesser degree Fort Point Channel and the Charles River. Salem, Quincy, and the Providence area have ample frontage too. Good luck -its innovative, environmentally sensitive, and potentially affordable.

  2. Robert W Steinberg Says:

    They build floating concrete houses over in the Netherlands so there’s no reason to believe that, we here in the United States couldn’t build something similar. Especially, now that global warming and melting ice are causing the oceans to rise up and it should be sold as a working prototype concept that will address the needs of the displace as the world’s oceans continue to rise up and take away what will be lost water front footage. Just a thought

  3. SHIFTboston blog» Blog Archive » floatyard: it takes a good story to make an idea valuable Says:

    [...]   . Quincy Vs. East Boston Fabricating and assembling Floatyard at a shipyard will make construction far more cost efficient.  Using water as the primary transportation method eliminates the size limitations of ground transport. And because channels in the inner harbor are able to accommodate massive vessels such as the 700 foot petroleum tanker, it is possible to transport large sections of Floatyard and it might even be possible to transport the entire building all at once. The question then becomes where to assemble. Will it be the spacious well equipped Fore River shipyard, 10 miles away? Or the smaller, unequipped East Boston waterfront, less than 1 mile? . The lights are blinking, it sounds like I am in a freight train, the streets are flooding, but I must get this proposal finished! I wrote the Floatyard narrative and compiled the proposal, a full spread, 32 page document. The programming was developed through rigorous brainstorming sessions with my teammates, most of whom are mentioned in this story. I finished the proposal exactly one year ago during Hurricane Sandy. That brutal storm made the project even more meaningful to me. Floating homes and/or floating buildings could reduce the economical impact made by storms such as Hurricane Sandy. These structures can rise with the storm surge unlike land based structures. I hope to see one here in Boston Harbor during the next big hurricane. . Floatyard received a 2013 progressive architecture award, was a finalist in the world architecture festival and continues to receive international acclaim. To read more about Floatyard visit: [...]


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