Why Floating Homes Are Perfect for Elon Musk
Floating homes offer a compelling future for cities around the world with an innovative flair that is very much in-line with what Elon Musk is doing with Tesla, Solar City and SpaceX. These communities have actually been in existence for centuries, but the sudden resurgence of interest makes it seem as though the concept is quite new and fresh. Living on Miami Beach, it’s hard to miss the fact that global warming poses a significant threat to the world. Most notably, we Miamians have been featured in the latest TED TALK by Al Gore. Out of all the places in the world mentioned as vulnerable cities to global warming, Miami was the number one city most at risk with $3.5 Trillion dollars worth of assets susceptible to destruction by 2070. That’s a sobering figure. The imagery of the TED Talk showed slides of the incredible flooding of Alton Road during our super moon high tides with fish from the ocean swimming in our streets.
With Miami Beach real estate residing in the danger zone, wouldn’t it make sense to explore some other types of development? While we are at it, wouldn’t it be a good idea to also think about sustainable, eco-friendly development so that we could halt any further degradation of our environment? Modern floating homes may turn out to be the smartest new type of real estate that we can build to ensure safety and longevity. With the unpredictability of hurricanes and rising sea levels, floating home communities are an enticing option to mitigate these strong environmental threats.
The Future is Now
We have all heard the catchphrase the real estate is all about location, location, location…well, the concept of floating homes allows for the creation of new spectacular residences on prime waterfront locations in both urban and destination resort settings. This type of construction makes sense for a number of reasons; most notably, real estate investors in floating homes will see the development of trophy waterfront assets that have a unique degree of protection from global warming and storm water surges. It is quite amazing to learn about the new technologies involved in producing some of the most jaw-dropping real estate that I have seen.
I spoke with one of the world’s foremost authorities on modern floating home communities, Koen Olthuis the owner of Waterstudio.nl, about the past and future of floating home communities. The history of floating home communities bodes for a close look at what was happening in Thailand around the mid-1800’s, when it was known as the Venice of the East. At that time, most residents lived on water or on land that was regularly met with vicious flooding. “One of the best projects that I’ve seen to cope with climate-related disasters was Bangkok in 1850. The city was 90% living on the water – on barges,” said Olthuis. “There was no flood risk, there was no damage. The water came, the houses moved up and down.”
A Problem from the Maldives to Miami
One common solution for vulnerable communities has been to move them to higher ground outside of urban areas, but this doesn’t work for island or coastal flatlands like Miami, The Bahamas or the Maldives. These areas are extremely vulnerable due to global warming. If you get chance, check out the documentary, The Island President, and you’ll see just how dangerous rising sea levels are to the survival of the gorgeous archipelago of the Maldives, which might be the most beautiful honeymoon destination on Planet Earth. The problems that we are facing are very real. A clear solution is to expand cities onto the water instead of on low-lying land. “Many cities worldwide have sold their land to developers…and now when we go to them we say…you don’t have land anymore, but you have water,” Olthius said. “If your community is affected by water, the safest place to be is on the water.”
Green is Great
While in Thailand this fall, I had the pleasure of collaborating with master shipbuilder Jory Lord on his vision for a new breed of modern floating homes. These floating communities are intended for like-minded expats to live on the water away from the chaos of urban centers like Bangkok, creating a single family home-oriented lifestyle appeal. It’s a community that Elon Musk would no doubt love to visit or live in, due to its forward thinking nature. These Thai communities would be virtually self-sustainable, adding only nutrients to the environment and a very limited infrared radiation from the highly efficient cooling systems. Rooftops of the homes will be solar farms that are combined with sterling generators and recyclable battery banks giving excess green energy that can be used for food production and organic aquaculture. Air conditioning is done using seawater cooling and condensation while wastewater management is centrifuged and treated organically to a level fit for human consumptions. Technology allows for ferro cement floating home bases to have a useful life of over a century, which is nearly three times that of conventional boats floating on the water.
Boat vs Home Classification
As floating home ownership gains popularity, there is a growing question that many new potential buyers and investors have about the classification of the home. Would it be classified as a vessel in the state of Florida, subject to maritime law or would it be classified as a home? In 2013 the US Supreme Court issued a ruling on a defining case. The court ruled that the City of Riviera Beach illegally seized and destroyed Plaintiff Fane Lozman’s two-story floating home. Settling a complex and unsettled area of the law, the high court ruled that just because something floats doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a boat. Consequently, the court ruled that the city should not have seized Lozman’s two-story floating home using centuries-old maritime law. This appears to be good news for the future, no homeowner wants some obscure law to give the government the power to condemn and/or destroy a home. Therefore, the future for floating homes in Florida is looking good.
Sexy Floating Islands
For those who have it all, the ultimate asset is your own private island. I have worked within the Billionaires Row of private islands in the Exuma island chain of the Bahamas over the course of the last decade. This area is home to a tremendous concentration of wealth with 29 Billionaires owning islands along the chain. Movie stars, royalty and old-money families have lived and vacationed in the area since the 1950’s. Celebrities owning private islands in the area include Johnny Depp, David Copperfield and Faith Hill. However, owning a private island is incredibly expensive. It often includes running a power line under the ocean to the mainland and installing countless infrastructure to make the island habitable. An even better alternative is the development of mobile private island communities.
The Sky is the Limit
Mobile private islands can be built to be 100% sustainable through the same technologies implemented for the smaller floating homes. These islands are seen by some as a mega yacht on steroids. The ultimate for entertainment and decadent living, built with six-star hotel quality buildings, beaches, bars and massive infinity-edge swimming pools. However, the best part about the islands are that they mitigate the destructive risks of storm surge. During the rough weather of hurricane season, private island owners must cross their fingers and hope for the best, while mobile floating island owners can feel much less exposed. They know that the storm water surge will be balanced, and if they so choose, they can simply have their islands towed to a more desirable location and fly to the new safe spot.
California Floating Homes
The future for floating homes and mobile islands is quite exciting. I’ll be heading out to California next month and will be staying within one of the coolest floating communities in the United States. Will keep you posted on the experience. While I’m out there maybe it’s a good idea to swing by Tesla and see if Elon would like to jump into this cutting-edge business as well.