Designing Houses to Move Locations

With the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) projecting that nearly 15 million U.S. homes are currently in danger of flooding due to bad weather or rising coastal waters, wouldn’t it be great if a homeowner could merely lift a house up and move it to a safe location?

Dutch architectural firm Waterstudio.NL has designed a mobile dwelling on stilts that can rest alongside a dock or shoreline, floating above the water. But, when desired—or necessary—the stilts can be retracted, lowering the home and allowing it to be taken out to open sea at up to 5 knots (5.75 mph).

Measuring up to 22 meters (75 feet) in length and equipped with two noise-free electric thrusters, the residence actually classifies as a yacht—which is exactly what Waterstudio.NL client Arkup, a yacht manufacturer, wants. But the Arkup 75’s 2,700-square-foot rectangular shape, along with a two-story, four-bedroom, four-bathroom floorplan, also makes it resemble a residential home. 

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As a house, the Arkup 75 uses retractable stilts for raising from and lowering to the water as needed and makes the unit hurricane safe. As a yacht, a pair of electric engines can propel the dwelling to other destinations when desired. Credit: Craig Denis/Arkup


According to Waterstudio.NL founder Koen Olthius, the “livable yacht’s” design is based upon a flamingo’s one-legged stance, which enables the creature to balance its body over the water while resting one leg and touching the water’s bottom with the other. The craft’s four 12-meter (39 foot) steel spuds, which can extend to up to 7.6 meters (25 feet) below the surface and anchor the building in place, also make it impervious to Category 4 hurricane winds of up to 155 miles per hour (mph). “When [the house is] above the water, the waves only hit the stilts,” Olthius notes. 

Meanwhile, a solar-powered electric system, a rain-harvesting unit, and a purification system make the home capable of operating off-grid. A 36-kilowatt hour (kWh) solar array covers the entire roof to provide electricity for air conditioning, appliances, lighting, propulsion, and all other operating systems on board. In theory, it can stay in open water indefinitely as long as there is enough solar power to provide energy, according to Olthius.

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Arkup’s “livable yacht” has the comforts of home, including bedrooms, bathrooms, a kitchen and dining area, a washer and dryer, and electric lights. But it also has a control room for lake and ocean voyages. Credit: Craig Denis/Arkup


“[The] livable yacht combines the best attributes of yachts, floating houses, and waterfront villas, with the added benefits of being self-sufficient, sustainable, and environmentally friendly,” Arkup notes. “[It’s] conceived to be ‘future-proof,’ from its ability to withstand or avoid extreme weather events, to its self-contained systems that allow fully off-the-grid living.”

There are similar elevated home projects geared toward traditional on-land dwellings. But Waterstudio.NL and Arkup believe that the home of the future will be on the water as sea levels rise due to climate change. “These buildings are portable and can react to known and unknown changes in the demands of near-future society,” Olthius notes. And COVID-19, he adds, has raised the popularity of off-grid, off-shore independent living.

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