To Build a Floating House a la Bornean

Have you ever traveled to South Borneo in Indonesia? Some areas there are swamp. The land is actually four inches under sea level, more or less. That’s why, the South Borneans are so familiar with the river and boat. Even Banjarmasin, the capital city of South Borneo Province, is called a city of thousand boats.

A floating house (with bridge) in Borneo
A floating house (with bridge) in Borneo

But, there is something more interesting I want to share. It’s about their floating house. Not just stage house standing on the river by the poles, it’s really floating house. Like a giant raft along Barito River. We call it lanting house, the traditional house in South and Central Borneo.

Try to stay there all day long, you might have a seasick. Every time a boat pass nearby, the house will oscillate by the wave. And it happens quite often, including at night, because lanting house used to be built on the major rivers, which means on the main lanes of Bornean traffic. Not to mention that the rivers are also influenced by the ups and downs of the Java Sea.

But certainly, lanting is good to anticipate the flood. You may want to build this kind of When normal houses are submerged by three meters of flood, lanting houses are floating tall there, like Noah’s ark.

Want to build a floating house like Bornean? You need to master some important woodworking skills first. Then, you can start to work:

  1. The poles. Implant them in the middle of the river. Use the woods that are not easily decayed in water for at least 10 years.
  2. The foundation. Same as for the poles, use the woods that are not easily decayed in water. But for the foundation, you need the big logs. Line them up on river banks. How many logs? Well, it depends on how big would your house be.
  3. The floor. On top of the wood, put the wooden boards as the floor. Tie them up. Nail them down.
  4. The wall. Push the raft towards the poles in the middle of river. Don’t forget to fasten it to some strong poles on the land to make sure it’s always there. Install walls and some partitions, and nail them.
  5. The roof. You can use lightweight materials like sagu palm leaves, if you want it look more exotic. Or simply put the iron sheets above. Other material is not forbidden, as long as it’s light enough. Why? Think about the foundation burden if your house gets too heavy.
  6. Done!. Your floating house is ready for occupancy.

By the way, in Borneo, these floating houses aren’t just a place to live. There are also dedicated floating building like bathroom, toilet (with a hole directly into the river), hotels, laundries, karaoke pubs, stores, schools, food stalls, gas station, markets, and many more.

Imagine a civilization with a lot of floating buildings like that. Maybe it reminds you of some cities in the Netherlands or some provinces in Thailand. Or further yet, a futuristic situation in Waterworld, a Kevin Costner’s movie in 1995.

Did I say futuristic house? Yes, floating house might be a future trends of house design. Considering the global warming effect: the sea level has gradually increased and we all are actually sinking. That is where the demands of floating houses would start to increase.

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