Flood-proof cantilevered house in Essex

First-time self-builder Geoff Wood was unfazed by this daring design

By Victoria Purcell | 13 October 2021

Building a flood-proof house requires complex engineering and careful project management, but that didn’t deter first-time self-builder Geoff Wood, who took on a daring design on a flood plain in Essex.

Geoff, 64, who founded and ran his own advertising agency, had been living in Spain after taking early retirement, but the desire to be closer to family and see his granddaughter grow up led him back to the UK.

The Grand Designs flood-proof house in Essex floats 15ft above ground

The entrance to the house sits under the cantilever. Photo: Jefferson Smith

He bought a 7.5-acre plot by the Blackwater Estuary in Essex for £350,000, paid for by the sale of his London property. The budget for the flood-proof Essex house was £700,000, which he intended to cover by selling his luxury Spanish villa.

The plot came with planning permission for a cantilevered property. But despite the complex engineering involved, Geoff decided to go it alone and project-manage the build himself.

Inside the Grand designs flood-proof house in Essex

The first-floor kitchen and dining area offers views over the Blackwater Estuary. Photo: Jefferson Smith

Hovering around 15ft above the ground to withstand a once-in-a-1,000-years flood, the cantilevered three-bedroom house rests on a waterproof concrete column housing the garage, utility room and staircase. Upstairs, the exterior and partition walls are made of timber, wrapping around and between the steel girders.

The build required 34 heavyweight concrete and steel piles to be drilled 14 metres deep. The piles, which need to resist upward forces of up to 200 tonnes, connect to an industrial-strength steel frame consisting of 560 steel girders, forming one huge cantilever and transferring the load of the overhang back into the earth.

Grand Designs cantilevered flood-proof house in Essex

The striking, jagged roof is covered in solar tiles to help power the house. Photo: Jefferson Smith

Should local flood defences be breached, Geoff’s power supplies (aided by the solar-tiled roof) and drainage would be protected. All he would need to continue living as normal would be a boat for access.

Geoff, who started the build in May 2019, was determined to complete on budget within eight months. But can he get it done before Covid hits? To find out, tune in to the brand new series of Grand Designs at 9pm, Wednesday 13 October 2021 on Channel 4