Reversed tributary housing system

13 Feb 2014

Integration of digital simulation & Building Information Modeling in disaster rebuilding

Recurring disasters arising from climate change and rising sea levels have urgently called for more inventive, performative and economic alternatives. Owing to the inseparable links between nature, performance and efficiency, it is time that digital simulation, building information modeling technologies and natural systems play larger roles in design and construction.

‘Reversed Tributary Housing System’ is an ecological flood water management oriented housing strategy that operates on multiple levels- trying to marry the logic of natural tributary organization to the efficiency of fluid dynamics, to derive the optimal formal organization and aggregation under the impact of flood water. Instead of building to resist disaster, the system is building to embrace.

The theory

By inverting the logic of how a river basin works, the system mediates the damage of flooding in three ways:

Channeling and re-orientation

More tributaries at the direction of flood water, less branches inland, increase surface storage, to allow maximum time for infiltration into soil and pumping. The arrangement of urban grids should be reorientated and rotated against the direction of flooding to facilitate maximum resistance towards flood water.

Teardrop shape block

To minimize damage of flood water, digital stimulation of flooding scenarios should be carried out to search for an optimized fluid dynamic form

Hybrid structure

Many storm-resist designs respond by making the structure float or use stronger materials in construction. However in the scenario of storm surge and tsunami, waves come in such great speed that either the floating speed of the structure or the structures themselves are already damaged by debris before they can react.

Therefore it is economically irrational and impractical attempting to design a building to resist. A hybrid structure - a permanent frame and core structure that ensures safety and allows rapid rebuilding, and prefabricated facades system that have a short life span and built to be destroyed in strong surges - would allow storm proof technology to be affordable to the masses, and are quickly and easily replacement for post disaster recovery.


Ida D.K. Tam with Runsheng Lin and Julia Pascutto

New York based architectural designer, photographer and film maker. Ida holds degrees in Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Nottingham (UK) and a Master of Architecture from Cornell University. 

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