Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Housing Paradigm Shift

Architecture firm Morphosis recently presented plans for what could be the next great innovation in housing; the FLOAT house. The FLOAT house is built with guideposts that allow it to rise up to 12 ft without being damaged in the event of a severe flood. The FLOAT house’s roof collects rainwater for use and includes solar panels sufficient to power the house completely. It also includes energy efficient appliances, and is heated and cooled geothermally. Despite the incredible synthesis involved in this product innovation, (the houseboat has been around for years, and a key piece of technology was developed at GM of all places) the most innovative feature of the FLOAT house is in offering a new paradigm for affordable housing.

Using New Orlean's 9th ward for inspiration, this new paradigm offers affordable, safe and green housing that appeals to the unique style of a particular neighborhood or individual. Typically, low-income housing has been utilitarian at best, and particularly susceptible to natural disasters. In designing the FLOAT house, Morphosis has employed the most consistent lessons of innovation; market research. Not only have they designed a useful product, but incorporated market tested design, safety and ecological elements as well.

This seems to be an example of TRIZ at work. Morphosis, P&G, Grameen Bank, Grameen Phone and other companies are using a similar abstract growth strategy; meeting the needs of lower, even the lowest economic classes can be profitable. These ventures seem to be financially successful, and yet they go against traditional financial trends. Will this new paradigm last and effect significant social and economic change, is it a fad, or are there possible negative unforeseen consequences that will kill this innovation?


  1. I like where this idea is headed. One of my favorite outcomes of Hurricane Katrina was the design and implementation of the "Katrina Cottage," which served as inexpensive, temporary housing that could be erected almost immediately after a disaster.

    The class also saw something similar last week on the Design Indaba Lab's website with the "foldaway house" that served a similar purpose of providing housing for disaster prone or disaster stricken areas.

  2. I was curious about how the idea was developed. I mean, I assume there is a group of innovators behind the scenes, but I found out that the FLOAT house is the result of a partnership among different organizations:
    - Cherokee Investment Partners
    - Jolie-Pitt Foundation
    - Make It Right Foundation
    - William McDonough & Partners, Architects
    - GRAFT

    Furthermore, this partnership is associated to the Clinton Global Initiative, a call to action to assume "share benefits, responsibilities, and values" ( ).

    I dare to say that in a globalized world, this practice should become more recurrent and be more than a fad.