We like traditional residential architects. Some of our best friends are traditional residential architects. We enjoy the well-designed homes these architects make. We do interior design work for them. But even so, we have a big problem with a hip new architectural trend: So-called “Tiny Floating Homes”
To us, “Tiny Floating Homes” are the worst kind of Post-Information Age marketing drivel. The original “Tiny Home” was bad enough: A Unabomber-scale shack marketed to the young who did not know better. Can’t afford a real house? No problem, kid. Get a “Tiny House” instead. And you get all the hassles of a real home. But less return on your investment. Tiny Homes might look cute, but they’re far too expensive per square-foot to build. They almost never hold on to their resale value. They can be miserably expensive to heat and cool. (That one is never properly understood, to be honest.) And heaven forbid you kids, have kids. Now everybody is stuck in a Tiny Home Insane Asylum.
We understand that many excellent small houseboats and floating residences provide great service in places like Seattle, Vancouver and Amsterdam. But for marine engineers, the vast majority of floating small structures are belligerently unaware of what naval architecture is. How the water affects structural design. And the engineering options available to smaller homes that happen to float.
Of many laughable examples, let’s review this 400ish-square foot floating tiny nightmare up in what we will say, is somewhere in Canada. We are leaving the names out to protect the innocent. But there’s no protecting the world from this idiotic, tiny floating thing,
Let’s behold the naval idioms this structure does not understand. See the pointed bow, the deck house and the square stern? They are all cute. But what is happening in these places? Is the white flat space in the bow a mini racketball court? Do we ice skate on it? Do yoga? You just can’t waste this kind of space in a design this small.
Next, there’s the curved deckhouse, that’s closer to a side of a factory than a boat. Worse, its window spec includes simply ridiculous land-based Anderson Windows. They are too heavy and made of the wrong materials for anything that has a hope of acting like a boat.
And if this craft isn’t going to act like a boat, why does it look like a boat?.
Inside a Tiny Hell
But the true tiny nightmare begins when you step inside this thing, or try to. Let’s begin with the seriously dangerous three-step circular stairway that goes to the top of the washing machine! Huh? If that wasn’t nutty enough it then leads to a three-step ladder that’s impossible to climb. But somehow must access a sleeping loft that is also impossible to get into.
You better be single if you live in this tiny house. And pretty darn little. Because with more than one big person, there is a serious threat of Mutiny on the Tiny Floating House in this tiny house.
Rocking The Tiny Floating Home
Arguing that tiny homes have to be cramped and poorly designed is simply wrong. Take a look at this 484 square-foot floating home on the Hunte River in Oldenberg, Germany. The excellent designers here are Sasscha Akkermann. They get floating residences: The entire package, layout and arrangement is designed to work with the elements not against them. See the raked roof? It cleverly centralizes the center of buoyancy over the hull form. And provides a natural run-off for rain water. Love that.
The raked roof line also opens the interior standing space above for a true sleeping loft a real human can use. And makes logical sense of the fantastically efficient reverse-angled windows. See the cool retro wood stove? And the real kitchen and dining area, with a roomy deck. It all fits together. Here’s the nautical engineering sleeper: This home is narrow enough that a good boatyard could pop this baby on a lift. And pull the entire structure from the water for service, or safety, in times of flooding or natural disaster.
Save your home by sticking it on blocks 30 miles from shore? Come on folks. This is smart.
The Boat Nerd’s Tiny Floating Home
Of course, we have our own ideas of what a floating residence could be. Our naval imagination leads us into hammering out every last square-foot of this interior. We would take a hard look at the furnishings and explore more built-ins to get the maximal usable volumes and chairs. We’d be aggressive in framing and engineering to open the space eaten by wallboard and other structural elements in conventional land-based construction. We’d explore making this residence just a tad more moveable as a boat. So it could travel, making it an affordable second home option and dramatically lowering the taxes and regulatory burden.
You know what, now that we are looking at this, we’re realizing there’s a lot we could add to the tiny floating home vernacular. There’s far too deep a housing shortage for bad floating homes. We bet we could find some serious new ideas on usable structures that float.
But the more we think about this, the more we realize, rethinking tiny floating homes as nautical solution is the future. We can engineer light-weight, weather-tough, and sea-kindly homes.
Until you know how cruel the sea can be, it can be challenging to know how to address the wrath. Tiny floating homes is a place where marine architects should be part of the conversation.