By Don Willlmott
Don Willmott is a New York-based journalist who writes about technology, travel and the environment for a wide variety of publications and websites.
If you've ever pondered the idea of living on a houseboat but found the idea a little too "boaty" for your tastes, perhaps there's a more fashionable alternative. Italian architect Giancarlo Zema, who has a reputation for dreaming up insanely extravagant mega-yachts and exotic underwater resorts, has teamed up with London-based EcoFloLife, a firm that specializes in "eco-friendly floating structures," to create a 1,000 square foot energy-efficient floating home made from recycled wood and featuring a recycled aluminum hull. The overall design aesthetic: more house and less boat.
Waternest 100, as it's called, stresses sustainability. As the company declares, "The world around us is becoming increasingly chaotic and conformist, requiring fully eco-friendly and recyclable housing units which allow us to live in complete independence and in harmony with nature while respecting and admiring it. The ongoing climate changes and the resulting sea- and river-level rises force us to ponder on the eco-sustainability of our housing choices." In other words, one way to protect the Earth may be to step off it and reside instead on the 70 percent that isn't dry land.
Waternest 100 is only about 36 feet across and 16 feet high, and its roof is covered in 60 square meters of solar panels that the company claims can generate 4 kilowatt peak (kWP), a sunny noon-time performance that outstrips most typical home solar installations. Skylights, balconies, and windows help to bring the outdoors in, under the assumption that wherever you choose to float your boat, you'll have a very nice view. The interior can include a living room, dining area, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom--or other configurations based on need (such as office, bar, restaurant, shop and exhibition space).
As for logistics, the company says that, "WaterNest 100 does not require a boating license or complicated construction permits. Once you've chosen the perfect berthing place, it's only necessary to request a simple authorization from the local maritime authorities for inland waters." (At least in the UK.) It can be trucked to vicinity of its final location and then towed to its final destination. EcoFloLife does recommend a location with "calm waters" such as a river, lake, bay or atoll.
Skeptics note that any boat's hull ultimately needs to be maintained, and it's unclear if Waternest units would ever need to be pulled from the water for maintenance, and if so, how that would be accomplished. It may also not be quite so simple to just float your home wherever you feel like it. One can imagine some very interesting meetings with the local zoning board.
And with a starting asking price somewhere around $540,000, this kind of sustainability won't come cheap, although low operating costs--and presumably the absence of property taxes--might make it affordable over the long haul.