The Puffer Village: Smart Homes That Float On Water Mimic The Defence Mechanism Of A Pufferfish

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An Iranian architect has designed a system of smart houses that adapts to rising sea levels - and is based on a pufferfish.

The Puffer Village by Sajjad Navidi was inspired by the Ganvie Lake Village in Benin, Africa, which suffers from high sea levels, forcing its residents to build wooden houses that float on water. Due to their poor construction, the houses are worn down and destroyed over time - ultimately endangering the lives of villagers.

The Puffer Village draws inspiration from the anatomy of the pufferfish, a species commonly found in Ganvie's lake Nakoué. The pufferfish is known to inflate like a balloon - filling up with water or air - to scare away or escape predators. Inspired by this defence mechanism, Navidi envisions a floating system that can inflate and deflate in response to sea levels and weather conditions.

Navidi defined the house geometry by studying underwater sand rings created by a pufferfish to attract a mate or protect the female's eggs. Once that was set, he proposed equipping each house with two sensors: one that responds to water levels and another to high waves. On rainy, high tide days, the water level sensor activates an air fan under the floating house, prompting a 'balloon skin' to fill up with air and letting the body rise to the surface. During stormy and rough conditions, an 'impact' sensor activates the substructure base pores to let water fill-up the skin - increasing weight and sturdiness to avoid damages or houses drifting off.

When conditions are stable, the balloon shell closes off, and the system starts to look a lot like typical houses with flat roofs. Below each structure, a tidal energy system generates electricity from seawater waves.

Similarly, the upper part of the balloon skin features flexible photovoltaic panels that yield power from solar radiation. Moreover, to contribute to the rural economy, an aquaponic system sits in the wooden fences around each house, allowing villagers to grow and cultivate their agricultural products. The proposal was part of a 2021 competition launched by the Jacques Rougerie Foundation, and was included in the top 10 list under the category of 'innovation related to sea level rise'.

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