People who fish may live in residences built on stilts. What kinds of stilt houses are there? Kelongs are generally used for fishing, although they also serve as offshore residences in the Philippines, Malasia, Indonesia, and Singapore. Palafito has been discovered throughout South America since pre-Columbian times. During the Spanish colonization of the Americas, it was used primarily by wealthy merchants.
Kelong is a Malaysian term meaning "long house". It is used to describe a type of building found in rural areas, especially in Sabah and Sarawak. A kelong has three main sections: the biliat (men's section), the bilik (women's section), and the lote (common section). The biliat and bilik contain sleeping platforms made of wood with woven palm leaves for roofs while the lote has a thatched-roofed shelter attached to it. The common section is where food is cooked over an open fire or hot plate and where people spend most of their time during inclement weather. The men of the family sleep in the biliat while the women have rooms in the bilik. The lote is shared by both sexes.
The kelong is usually built on land that is too swampy or precarious for traditional buildings. They are therefore ideal for places where water is likely to flood regularly like around rivers or canals.
The majority of Malay dwellings are Rumah Panggung (lit. "stage house") residences constructed on stilts. The key distinguishing feature of a traditional Malay kampung home is that it is built on stilts or piles. This was done to keep wild animals and floods at bay, to dissuade thieves, and to improve ventilation.
Stilt houses were originally used by fishermen but now they are found in all parts of the country where there are rivers or canals. They provide better living conditions than a ground-based house because you do not have to worry about earthquakes, floodings, or other natural disasters.
The people who live in these houses work in local businesses or travel around the region looking for new jobs. Most do not have enough money to invest in property so they remain as they are, one room with a porch or veranda, until they die.
This type of residence is common in Malaysia and many other Southeast Asian countries. If you ask any Malaysian how did they live before modern times, they will tell you that they lived in a Kampung (village).
Stilt homes are dwellings erected on piles above marshy land or bodies of water, especially in locations with a lot of rain. In Brazil, particularly in the north, exemplars of this type are numerous. Keep this image! Shacks in Sao Paulo's Paraisopolis. Image credit: Fernando Stankuns/Visual Hunt/CC BY-NC-SA.
In most cases, they are made from wood and thatch, but some stone versions have been found in certain regions of Brazil. They usually consist of one single room with a thatched roof where the family sleeps during bad weather. Outside of these periods, they use tents or simple shelters made from bamboo or papaya trees.
The people who live in stilt houses claim that they are better protected from floods than other types of buildings and that this is why they continue to be used even after settlements have been built on higher ground. However, scientists believe that this protection comes at a price - the stilts make these houses very unstable if the ground shifts under them.
Also worth mentioning is the fact that not all places in Brazil where shacks can be found are flooded regularly. For example, parts of Rio de Janeiro are constantly flooding but many shacks remain standing even after several years because they are too expensive to move.
That said, floods do cause problems for people living in shack neighborhoods. When water reaches its highest level during rainy seasons, it can damage the foundations of adjacent houses causing them to collapse as well.