National Treasure #165: Elizabeth English

Citizenship: American


  • BA in Architecture and Urban Planning, Princeton University
  • MSc in Civil Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • PhD in Architectural Theory, University of Pennsylvania

Residency: Canada and Louisiana since 2007

Employer: University of Waterloo

Profession: Architect

Area of interest: Amphibious housing

Founder: Buoyant Foundation Project and Building Resilience Workshops in Louisiana

Both of these projects promote strategies that work WITH water to enhance community resilience, and both encourage the use of redundant forms of flood mitigation to diffuse the concentration of risk that leads to catastrophe in the wake of the inevitable failure of a single-line-of-defense system. – University of Waterloo profile

According to her LinkedIn profile, she works with Waterloo students on projects in Jamaica, Galveston, Nova Scotia, south Louisiana, and northern Canada. Oh, yes, and she researches the origins of Russian avant-garde architectural theory in Slavophile philosophy.

Here, you can see a 3:30 talk about her vision for buoyant housing that would eliminate or reduce the devastation caused by flooding.

You can watch a 7:45 video about the Building Resilience Workshops here.

You can read more here about her vision and her commitment to finding solutions that support community life as opposed to disrupting it (e.g. by putting houses on stilts).

Professor English qualifies as a Canadian treasure because she lives and works here and applies her research to Canadian environments. (As we discussed at the outset, it’s my list.) She’s a treasure because she’s a problem-solver, and she’s got a great attitude.

“When I started in 2006, I couldn’t mention it without getting laughed at. Now nobody laughs. They may not agree with the idea, they may not think it’s practical but at least they know we need other solutions, that the current tool kit needs expansion.” – Waterloo Region Record

Latest Award

Media release from the Initiative on Climate Change Policy and Governance:

On the occasion of the International Day for Disaster Reduction, ICCG is pleased to announce the outcomes of 2017 Best Climate Practice Award on “Building resilience to climate disaster risk”. The International Day for Disaster Reduction highlights how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disaster risk.

The first Special Mention of the Jury was assigned to the project Amphibious Housing, a building method promoted by the Canadian Buoyant Foundation Project (BFP) and applied in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, a region experiencing increasingly unpredictable and destructive flooding. The project Amphibious Housing was given a Special Mention because of its innovative application of technologies to enhance resilience in flood-prone areas.


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4 Responses to National Treasure #165: Elizabeth English

  1. Barry says:

    Wikipedia – “The building’s main failing (New Imperial Hotel) was its foundation. Wright had intended the hotel to float on the site’s alluvial mud “as a battleship floats on water”,[17] even during an earthquake.”

    As she, Professor English, said she is not doing something new but rather trying to improve on an old idea. So often we discount the old as useless as opposed to something, or someone, that can be learned from. Not definitely/ inherently good in itself but rather as a starting point. We can adapt many ideas from other cultures to improve both.

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