The strain of city life often forces people to seek accommodation in unusual places, like forest or even water. Living on a houseboat is increasingly becoming a lifestyle choice, offering people an escape from the traffic noise and pollution of the city. A consortium of two Fraunhofer Institutes, along with their partners, is currently working to construct a self-sufficient floating home that can generate its own electricity, heat and clean water, with the help of an array of impressive technological innovations.
Floating homes are a common sight in Europe, especially in the canals of London and Amsterdam. Such dwellings, however, must be located in places where external power, water and sewer hook-ups are possible. To make living off-the-grid more feasible and in turn comfortable, German research organization Fraunhofer and its various associates have embraked on the Lusatian autartec project. Named after Germany’s Lusatian Lake District, the project aims to boost the region’s economy, with the construction of energy-efficient floating homes for both residency and recreation.
For the project, the Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems (IVI) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS) have joined hands with their industrial and academic partners to erect a new and incredibly innovative floating home at Lake Geierswalde. Situated at the northwestern side of the city of Hoyerswerda, the lake is part of the famous Lusatian Lake District, which extends from northeast Saxony all the way to southern Brandenburg. Home to as many as 23 lakes, the region, covering a total area of nearly 32,000 acres (around 13,00 ha), is the largest artificial lake district in all of Europe.
The researchers are looking for ways to make use of modern architecture, engineering and energy efficiency technologies, in order to construct a completely self-sufficient floating home. Built on a 13 x 13 m (about 43 x 43 ft) strengthened steel pontoon, this stunning two-story structure features a 75 sq m (or 807 sq ft) ground floor and a 34 sq m (approx 365 sq ft) top floor. A 15 sq m (around 161 sq ft) terrace lines the house on all of its sides, allowing the occupants to relax and admire the surrounding seascape. Speaking about the project, Matthias Klingner of IVI said:
These kinds of energy self-sufficient floating homes do not exist yet. We want to find a solution for this kind of environment.
To make the structure self-reliant in terms of energy, the developers are working to create powerful energy systems that are in fact light enough to be installed onto the limited space of the pontoon. A bulk of the dwelling’s energy requirements is met by solar cells that are embedded right into the building’s exterior. These PV cells in turn charge special lithium polymer batteries, stored underneath the stairs and inside the textile concrete walls. Furthermore, the engineers envision an ingenious heating and cooling system that is energy-efficient and requires very less maintenance.
The house boasts an innovative fireplace that uses a special salt hydrate solution to absorb the heat from the flames. Placed in a tub over the fire, the salt hydrates liquefy when the fireplace is on. When completely liquefied, these chemical compounds soak up the heat from the flames, and store it almost indefinitely. Crystallizing the solution, with the help of advanced radio-based technology, causes the heat to be released. For additional warmth, during the cold winter months, there is a zeolith thermal storage system installed on the pontoon. Passing moist air through the zeolith minerals results in an exothermic reaction, which further releases heat. In summer, however, the minerals dry out.
A specially-designed adiabatic cooking unit keeps the house cool during summertime. The system, which does not use any electricity, works on the principle of evaporative humidification. To ensure round-the-clock availability of clean, usable water, the engineers are currently developing a specialized system that uses ceramic membranes, photocatalysis and electrochemistry to filter the water. According to the researchers at Fraunhofer, the construction of this high-tech floating home is slated for completion by 2017.