By Jody McCutcheon
Floating homes tend to be associated with luxury and exclusivity—but not always with sustainability. They’ve become quite popular, particularly in the Netherlands, on the US west coast and throughout Southeast Asia. Maybe this rise in popularity is no surprise, considering the relief they provide from the stresses of urban life – even from a bustling harbour, a floating home offers a neat sort of outsider perspective on the city. And while they can be stationary, they can also be mobile—which is a wonderful way to travel the world, changing scenery or lifestyle, without actually leaving home.
More and more, though, sustainability has begun to enter the floating-home conversation. For life at the shores of society, so to speak, requires its own power and water sources – and that’s just the beginning. Below are three floating homes that offer a sweet combination of luxury and sustainability.
White Snake House
Located in France on forty hectares of lake and oak forest is White Snake House, designed by Lyon-based architectural studio AUM Pierre Minassian. The firm’s goal was to design a dwelling that is “as pure and simple as possible.”
Appearing to float on the lake, this 370-square-metre eco-friendly home is constructed largely from concrete, glass and other basic raw materials. Sandwiched between two slabs of white concrete is a layer of wraparound glazing. These concrete slabs create a terrace at the bottom and a roof overhang up top. The lower slab’s level varies, allowing for differing levels in the house. Some of the glazing is sliding, which permits a blurring of the indoor-outdoor boundary. Perhaps the most eye-catching—if not original—feature of the house is an infinity pool immersed in the lake.
The materials used emphasize the house’s minimalist style. Most of the interior floors are done in white concrete, save for those in the living room, study rooms and bedrooms, which are done in wood. The interior layout is dictated by sun exposure and viewing angle. The house can only be accessed via a telescoping bridge from shore—so no one gets in without an invitation!
A low-energy residence, White Snake House employs geothermal and solar energy sources in addition to a Canadian well. In summer, a lake-water cooling system cools the house. Furthermore, a dyke was erected around the building site while the area around the house was emptied to respect the environment and the lake’s ecosystem.
White Snake House isn’t strictly a floating house like the other two on this list, but it is a fixed, water-treading residence nonetheless, with strong sustainability features.
Sometimes the best name for something comes from its basic description. That’s the case for Floating House, the calming water retreat Singapore-based architect Dymitr Malcew created for Parisian developers H2orizon, a company that specializes in floating structures. According to Malcew, Floating House was “designed for people who appreciate freedom and nature at their doorstep.” It’s meant to provide an innovative living experience with minimal impact on its surroundings.
Two plush bedrooms and two contemporary bathrooms complement a luxurious living room, modern kitchen and bar. The bedrooms and living room enjoy direct access to a roofed terrace spanning the house perimeter, while glass walls offer 360-degree views, maximizing visual connection and a sense of blending with the surrounding landscape and facilitating an open feel throughout the house. Sliding wooden panels and mobile outdoor claustras offer privacy when needed. The terrace also allows for tranquil, nighttime stargazing.
The roof structure is supported by a series of columns separated from the glass curtain wall, thus allowing for micro-movements produced by an uneven water surface and making the roof seem to float like the house itself. Each house is designed around clients’ needs and lifestyle, customizable in terms of size, materials and finishes, contingent on location, site conditions and climate.
Floating House provides maximal connection to its surroundings with minimal impact. Electricity comes from solar power, while the glass curtain wall optimizes light during the day. Fresh water is stored in water tanks hidden in the floating platform, with the house also using a special system to process greywater so it doesn’t affect the environment.
Built upon a floating platform that allows for ease of mobility from place to place, Floating House is easily moored to the next pier or marina. For now, though, it has no anchor, having been designed for calm waters such as a bay or lake. The platform is quite deep and very stable. But if the weather gets bad, you may want to stay off the terrace.
A collaboration between American luxury yacht designer Arkup and Dutch architectural firm Waterstudio.NL, the Arkup#1 is a fully electric, self-elevating livable yacht. Setting a strong example of sustainability, it effectively connects its owner with both nature and metropolis. Basically it’s part yacht, part floating house, part luxury waterfront villa that’s been created in anticipation of a future of flooding and rising sea levels.
First, the sustainability part: designed for off-grid living, the Arkup#1 is powered by a 30 kW rooftop solar array that feeds up to 1,000 kWh of lithium-ion batteries. Twin 136-horsepower electric azimuth thrusters provide a top speed of seven knots, allowing it to roam from location to location at a leisurely pace. And electric motors mean no fuel, which of course means no emissions! Other eco-friendly features include rainwater harvesting, waste management and water purification systems.
Next, the luxury part: the 404-square-metre, double-decker yacht boasts four bedrooms and four and a half bathrooms. A built-in communication suite offers 4G, Satellite TV, Wi-Fi and VHF radio. There’s a sundeck that fully immerses in water to become a protected sea-pool and a boat lift to remove your tender or jet ski from the water.
Fully customizable, the Arkup#1 can be a home, vacation retreat, party venue, restaurant, gym, spa, whatever your imagination desires. You can even choose your roof configuration: solar panels, terrace lounge or both.
Surely the self-elevation part piqued your curiosity, too: an elevation system monitors water levels and, when necessary, uses its forty-foot hydraulic legs to lift the Arkup#1 out of the water, stabilizing it against floods and hurricanes. It can withstand category-4 hurricane winds, which reach 250 km/h, and even prevent sea-sickness. Other safety features include shock-resistant glass panel windows and a lightning protection system.
All images courtesy the houses. White Snake House photos by Erick Saillet
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