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Earthships in flood zones?

 
Posts: 8
Location: Eastern Shore of Maryland
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Currently we live in an old, drafty farmhouse on the 100-year flood plain of the Wicomico River.

1. Is it possible to build an energy efficient house on a flood plain?

2. If so, what is the best kind of house and what are some design guidelines?

3. If not, what alternatives do we have?
 
gardener
Posts: 3746
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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You can build an energy-efficient house anywhere, as long as you match materials and techniques to the environment. In your case, that would first mean making the house higher than ground level. How much this requires depends on the specifics of your location in the flood plain. I am sure you could build an earthship starting with a mound and adding earth around the sides, but that would probably not be the most energy-efficient method of construction in your circumstances. Obviously you will not be able to dig into the south side of a hill. Aside from that, I don't think there is anything specific to advise that is not primarily based on your geographical and cultural region. I don't think coastal Maryland has long-established climate-specific traditions as some regions have, so I would look to literature on effective methods and designs in general. That can give much more thorough advice than a forum thread can.
 
Posts: 52
Location: KY
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I couldn't pass this up, simply because the word "ship" is there, I think there must be a solution!

Personally, I can't get the image I once saw of a home in the middle of a flood land where they decided to bring in tons of fill to essentially build a mound/moat that the dwelling sits on, surrounded by water. I'd be sure to have a jon boat docked on the front porch :)

Other than that, crazy ideas like building the dwelling on a floating platform of sorts? that would rise with the water on large posts drilled and anchored into a rock layer below (sounds expensive and kind of ridiculous)...or simply up on posts to a level you think would keep you dry? But, kind of defeats the whole "earthship" idea in terms of being settled into the Earth for the benefits!

Is there an area of your property above water level? Then maybe you could think about a portable home that could be dragged or trailer'd to a higher temporary location, then brought back and hooked back into it's "Earthship" spot of some sorts, w/ relative ease.

If the old house is still there tho, and hasn't succumbed to the flooding after all those years, I'd imagine you could focus more on a permanent structure that could endure the conditions by improving the immediate land around it to keep the water away. Is there a basement? Even if you are on a mound, the mound could saturate enough from the surrounding waters to flood an underground area if its below the water line. How much water do you get?
 
pollinator
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Can you lift the old house and retrofit all the good stuff to improve its efficiency.
With shortages today it may be worthwhile.
 
gardener
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100 year flood plains these days seem to get floods every 5-10 years, so I would avoid building anything at or below grade. Same with digging into any existing slope, if surface water percolates down to the back wall and pools you'll eventually have water/mold issues. I think an earthship will do best where you start with a space that is either flat or slopes down/away in all directions, and you pile extra soil up against the walls so you are totally above grade. Then having a french drain to move water away as fast as possible will help. But if the yard would have standing water then I would avoid it.
 
Laura Fox
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Location: Eastern Shore of Maryland
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Thanks for the ideas everyone!

I think we'll try a few things with small outbuildings, and then we'll decide which we like best for a house.

We are slowly hand-digging a pond, so I think we'll start by mounding the dirt, letting it settle, and building a cob or balecob greenhouse on top.

Then, I'd like to put up a small straw bale barn on stilts for the animals.

Two more brainstorm ideas I had:

1. Stack urbanite to make a sturdy, high foundation. Drawback is that urbanite is laborious to work with. To raise the walls above any chance of flooding would be prohibitively difficult.

2. Build the lower storey of stone, and the upper of balecob. Drawback is that stone is not naturally occurring in this area, so it would be expensive and laborious to source and transport.
 
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Location: Oregon, USA
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I am living in and am constructing an Earthship and even in the arid high desert if moisture wicks into the wall mudding/plaster it will cause issues with the wall coating cracking or flaking off or crumbling.   I tend to agree with others that if you can salvage or repair and upgrade what you have you can move forward with growing food and other things a lot quicker.  
 
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