"Dream homes": creating sustainable floating homes to transform lives

Published on 4 May 2020

PhD student Nandan Mukherjee has developed floating homes which allow families to survive natural disasters while producing food, water, and energy. This has led to the University receiving the UN RISK Award and the accompanying €100,000 prize.

On this page

Around 40% of the world’s population live in coastal areas less than 100 km from the sea. As the world struggles to adapt to climate change there is an urgent need to help these inhabitants deal with rising sea levels, heavy rainfall and increasing numbers of natural disasters such as extreme flooding.

In Nandan’s native Bangladesh, some 45 million people live in areas where extreme cyclones frequently destroy homes and livelihood assets, causing further complex social and economic challenges. His solution was to develop floating homes that allow families to survive natural disasters while producing food, water, energy and sustainable livelihood options.

Nandan said the idea of disaster resilient homes was prompted by a story he heard from a woman who lost a child in a flood and was then abandoned by her husband.

“She blames herself every single day, and she told me that she will never take another child or try for a family again in her life because she is unable to safeguard their lives,” he said. “The area she lived in was protected by flood embankments and people living inside the area did not anticipate flooding so they were living under a false sense of security. However, the reality was something else." 

“A truly disaster-resilient home needs to be robust enough to float above the flood water, providing safety. It needs to generate enough food with proper nutritional balance. It needs access to water, electricity and all other basic amenities.”

Nandan Mukherjee, PhD student

Three 196 square-metre ‘Dream Homes’ were built for $12,000 each in the pilot phase of the project. The prize money will now be used to help bring the project to scale in the flood prone river basins and deltas of Bangladesh.

These complex constructions can float on inundated areas and are resilient to floods, storms, earthquakes and river bank erosion. They also tackle root causes of vulnerability by improving living standards as they include permaculture-based food production systems and renewable energy systems that allow families to continue conducting basic activities in times of disasters.

Importantly, they were co-designed by locals in a participatory process and aim to empower disadvantaged families. The process did not only improve the structural designs, but also transferred ownership during the construction phase.


Press Office, University of Dundee