Floating London

Floating London

Date: October 2015

The capital’s waterways and 85km of post-industrial canals offer an opportunity to accommodate significant numbers of new houses in the form of floating homes. 

'Floating London' continues our research into alternative forms of housing, affordability and modern methods of construction. Under the stewardship of the Canal and Rivers Trust affordable leasing arrangement for moorings would mean that construction alone becomes the primary cost. Land price is removed from the equation making this housing a genuinely affordable option. Our proposal would allow all existing canal activity to continue both on the water and the towpaths.  In addition, the public realm and amenity would be improved to the benefit of all.

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The canal networks of London saw their heyday in the early part of the industrial revolution. Much of the canal network is still made up of industrial buildings that turn their back on the canal and detract from the activity and security of users.

If a 5m wide zone for floating housing development were located along the off-side of the canal it would leave the towpath side open for pleasure boat mooring and views over the canal plus space for travelling boats to pass.

The total length of London’s canals is 85km.  Subtracting 10% of this length as unusable due to bridges and locks, we calculate that there is capacity for approximately 8,000 residential units. 

The existing technology of pre-cast concrete floating pontoons, commonly used in marinas, would be used for the floating rafts for each 15x4m development plot. Construction would adopt off-site prefabrication, increasing speed of delivery and reducing disruption on the canals. Due to height restrictions on canal bridges wall, floor and roof components would be prefabricated and stacked onto a floating pontoon before being towed along the canal network to their final location by tug and assembled.

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Floating House03

Our proposal reduces the speculation that makes much housing unaffordable. Long-term stewardship and governance is offered by the Canal and Rivers Trust who become the custodian of serviced plots for dwellers.  The price of leasing a mooring for a floating dwelling would be controlled at an affordable and fixed level with measures in place to prevent sub-leasing and price increase above inflation.By enabling self-build, custom-build and small developers to adopt the pioneering spirit of post-war ‘plotlanders’ floating housing allows a broad demographic to benefit from canal housing. We estimate that a floating house would cost just 40% of the cost of the equivalent sized house currently for sale in London.

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