The goal is to create an affordable and self-contained Tiny-Eco-Float House here on Haida Gwaii. A group of these float houses could be moored together to create a small ecovillage, a marine research station, or even to allow Haida families to reoccupy ancient village sites.
The tiny house will have a 500 square foot footprint, and will be built with local wood on top of a floating concrete platform. The house will feature a range of "earthship" systems, including rain water collection and filtration, climate regulation, grey and black water systems, waste management, and power generation. Unlike the rammed earth structures that have been developed for the desert, this house will be optimized for living on the water in the remote and pristine locations found in British Columbia's Northwest Coast.
The house will also be designed to be put on land and anchored in place, creating a house capable of surviving the flash floods associated with tsunami events.
The engineering behind concrete floats is well established, and it is now possible to create strong, mobile, and durable floating platforms. Float homes could be built on-island and towed to distant locations. Other technological approaches to house floatation are possible and could be explored.
The engineering behind the various "earthship" systems is relatively well developed. What is needed is to implement these systems in experimental houses, so that these systems can be used and refined.
I live on Haida Gwaii (pop. 5,000), the ancestral homeland of the Haida First Nation. The Haida are internationally recognized for the beauty of their art. Haida Gwaii is also known as the “Galapagos of the North,” because of the many unique species that live here.
Because Haida Gwaii is an island on the Pacific Ring-of-Fire, it is also at risk for tsunamis and rising sea levels due to global warming. Very few of the buildings on-island could withstand a tsunami or flash flood, and just about everyone here is at risk.
There is a need to create disaster-proof housing that also allows people to enjoy the natural environment without polluting that environment. At the same time, there is a need to create jobs for people that connect with the existing forestry and tourism industry. In particular, there is a need to add value to the timber shipped off-island.
I propose to build a prototype Tiny-Eco-Float House here on Haida Gwaii. The house will look similar to the small (20’ x 25’) Haida longhouses that the band has already begun to build. However, this house will be built on a floatable concrete platform, and feature a range of easily accessible “Earthship” systems, including water collection, power generation, waste management, climate control, and internet.
This Tiny-Eco-Float House will be designed to operate on land as a flood resistant house or on the water as a float home. The prototype will undergo testing and design improvements with the goal of creating a house that is affordable, mobile, environmentally sound, and resistant to natural disasters.
Once built, the prototype could be rented as an eco-tourism experience or auctioned off. A social enterprise model could be used to maximize benefits to employees and homeowners. Tiny-Eco-Float Houses could also be grouped together to create an eco-village.
A social enterprise model could be used to maximize benefits for the builders and homeowners. Different components of the project would be eligible for grant funding.
Haida Gwaii has expertise in home building and plenty of wood. There is also expertise in implementing and using a variety of off-the-grid systems. A Haida artist could enhance the beauty and value of the house by painting the faceplate.
Because the house floats and is self-contained, it could be moored in a beautiful and pristine location. The house would not require any utility bills, apart from perhaps a satellite internet connection. A working prototype could be rented as an eco-tourism experience during the summer. The prototype could also be towed to Vancouver and auctioned off.
There are a variety of technical challenges, and outside expertise will be needed: 1) An architect to review the design, aesthetics, and strength of the building; 2) A systems engineer to review all the Earthship systems, including the waste management system; 3) An expert in floatable concrete platform manufacture from within British Columbia to teach a workshop on building these platforms using on-island materials. Students would build the 20' x 25' platform for the prototype. This exercise will provide valuable information on the viability of building concrete floats on-island.
A successful prototype will demonstrate that it is possible to build a Tiny-Eco-Float House here on Haida Gwaii, rent it, and also sell it.
British Columbia already has a number of successful float house building companies, including Proman Construction Ltd. (http://promanconstruction.com) in Campbell River and Cooper Floats (http://www.cooperfloats.com) on the Fraser River. These ordinary float homes are built on concrete platforms and moored at docks that connect them to municipal power and waste management systems.
There is a small but growing market for float homes (see: http://www.floathomesales.com/), with prices ranging from $100K to $400K. Examples of float home communities include Wes-Del Marina on the Fraser River near Ladner, West Bay Marine Village in Victoria (http://www.westbayfloathomes.ca/) and a small community on Granville island in Vancouver. It is possible to get financing to buy float homes from some select banks.
We are proposing to build a prototype float home that uses established concrete floatation technology, but that includes a range of earthship systems to create a small, mobile, and environmentally friendly house that could be moored in pristine locations, and even connected with other units to form a small mobile ecovillage on the water.