Solar-powered houseboat charts a new course

In London, the demand for residential property is currently greater than what the city can physically bear.

In addition to simply needing more space to put people, the housing market also demands that homes be affordable and, increasingly, sustainable. This is a tall order for developers who have been used to slapping together cheap apartments or expensive McMansions for the last decade.

Design think-tank Sanitov Studios decided that the solution to these converging problems needed a little outside the box creativity. Or perhaps we should say “off the land” creativity. 

The studio decided to explore the untapped houseboat market as a potential way to make sustainable designs more affordable. The result of their experiment is “The Ark”, a solar-powered floating house that demonstrates the potential of houseboats in urban developments.

The Ark is currently floating peacefully on the Thames, powered entirely by solar photovoltaic technology, much like this offering by Magma Design. With help from renewable energy installer, Enviko, the Sanitov design team determined that the best way to meet the houseboat’s wireless electricity needs was to fill its upper deck with a 2kWp solar array.

At the heart of the boat’s lighting system is Lutron processor, providing control of all lighting circuits. When passengers turn a light on, instead of turning on to 100 percent power, like a traditional light switch, the system is programmed to turn on to 80 percent power, the difference in light output is barely noticeable to the human eye but the system is consuming 20 percent less current, according to company specifications [PDF]. The system also allows all lights in the boat to be controlled by a bedside panel. No more stumbling around in the dark!

Rainwater/grey-water is harvested for cleaning the boat and for watering an internal green wall. Heating and hot water is provided by a highly efficient air source heat pump, which utilizes CO2 as a natural refrigerant. 

The Ark’s design also incorporates sustainable and recyclable materials such as fast-growing bamboo, reused, industrial wood and recyclable concrete.

Want to spend a long weekend in the Ark? You wouldn’t be its first inhabitants. After construction, the prototype houseboat’s first task was to house a select few members of the Danish Olympic team during the London games.

* Beth Buczynski, EarthTechling