North Dakota State University Alum Designs ‘Flood House’

By MIKE NOWATZKI | June 20, 2011

A North Dakota State University architecture graduate’s flood-fighting experience has inspired him to design a house capable of withstanding high water.

Alex Gore said he started thinking about the elevated house concept after the 2006 flood and decided to finalize the design after watching flood fights again this spring in Fargo-Moorhead and elsewhere in the nation.

“It was actually a long process,” he said.

The result is the “flood house,” a cantilevered design that keeps the main living and sleeping areas of the home 10 feet above ground to allow floodwaters to pass underneath it.

Gore, a native of Rochester, Minn., attended NDSU from 2003 to 2008, earning a master’s degree in architecture. During the 2006 flood, he was called upon as a National Guard member to help build dikes in the Red River Valley. One was built on a road to protect a nursing home at a lower elevation.

“And I thought, if we weren’t here or if the flood got too big, this whole area would be destroyed,” Gore said.

During the last two years – especially this spring as communities across the nation battled high water – Gore said he’s been thinking about ways to protect a house from flooding.

“And I kept coming to the same notion – you have to get out of the way,” he said by email.

The flood house would lift the most crucial parts of the home above floodwaters. The upper level would encompass 1,400 square feet, while the entry level would have about 300 square feet with space for storage, a stairwell and a washer and dryer that would be elevated to avoid minor flooding.

“My aim was to combine protection with a pleasurable atmosphere, a place where you never will have to evacuate and where there will be no spring worries,” Gore explained by email.

The 26-year-old now lives in Longmont, Colo., where he co-owns a design firm, F9 Productions Inc., with fellow NDSU alumnus Lance Cayko. Currently, the company is designing homes for construction in North Dakota, South Dakota and Colorado, Gore said.

As he acknowledged, the concept for the flood house isn’t completely original.

Elevated homes have been around for years in hurricane-prone coastal areas. The website also advertises a flood-resistant elevated home welded onto piers embedded in concrete.

For the flood house, Gore incorporated features to make it self-sustaining in case it becomes cut off by high water and/or loses electrical service – an all-too-realistic scenario for valley residents. The features include solar power, a backup heating source, storage for survival food and a rainwater collection system. The raised sun deck would have a ladder off the back for boat access to allow supplies to be delivered in an emergency.

The house would be supported by deep footings for stability and would be built on elevated ground to further protect the main level from flooding.

Fargo Inspections Administrator Ron Strand said he’s not aware of any zoning restrictions that would prevent someone from building an elevated home in the city. Two possible reasons why people haven’t done so may be the lack of a basement and the appearance in relation to their neighbors, he said.

Gore estimates the flood house would cost $250,000 to $500,000 to build, depending on the price of steel and whether features such as solar panels are included.

Sandbagging would still be required during major flooding to keep the entry level dry, unless the owner chooses to flood-proof that part of the structure, which Gore said would be “extremely expensive.”

Whether the flood house gets any takers remains to be seen, but Gore said he just wanted to “put it out there.”

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