Could I build a house that would survive a volcanic eruption?

The thought experiment: Could I build a house that would survive a volcanic eruption?

There may be safer places to build your dream house, but if you're really set on living at the foot of that volcano...

1. LAVA FLOWS

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© Sam Falconer/BBC Focus
© Sam Falconer/BBC Focus

Hawaiian and Icelandic volcanoes produce slow-moving lava. Lava temperature is 700-1,200°C, so it melts or ignites most things.

A house on stilts of titanium or tungsten might survive, if the stilts were strong enough to withstand the lava pushing against them.

2. AIRBORNE ASH

© Sam Falconer/BBC Focus
© Sam Falconer/BBC Focus

Violent volcanoes, such as Vesuvius and Mount St Helens, tend to explode and throw up several cubic kilometres of ash and rock. A 30cm-thick ash layer can be heavy enough to cause roofs to collapse, so you’ll need a reinforced roof with a steep pitch to stop the ash building up too much.

3. POISONOUS GAS

© Sam Falconer/BBC Focus
© Sam Falconer/BBC Focus

After an eruption, pyroclastic flows can engulf a town in superheated steam and poisonous sulphur dioxide or asphyxiating carbon dioxide. To escape this, you’ll need an airtight home with an air supply – preferably underground. But ensure your access hatch doesn’t get blocked!

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