During the first half of 2001, I lived in Limburg, a southeastern Dutch province best known for its beer, cheese, medieval castles, rural character, and rowdy pre-Lenten street parties. Although my home was in a teeny-tiny village of about 2,500 with not much more than a post office, a grocer, and a couple of brothels out on the highway, I spent a fair amount of time exploring — via an epic bus ride and a couple of train connections — the Limburgian capital city of Maastricht.
>I’m not exactly sure what it was about this ancient Dutch city straddling the river Maas that hooked me and got me coming back. Perhaps it was the killer open air markets, the historic architecture, the abundance of parks, or postcard-perfect square after postcard-perfect square. Or maybe it was the out-of-the-way frietkot that I ate pretty much every meal in. I do know that it was the city’s riverfront houseboat scene is what left the most lasting impression. During my visits, I stepped aboard one rather infamous vessel — when in Rome, as they say — and spent the night in a couple of more including a very no-frills “Botel."
Given my fondness for Maastricht — the birthplace of the European Union, by the way — I was quite pleased to see (hat tip to Jetson Green) that a passive houseboat is now moored on the banks of the river Maas. I’ve profiled a few self-sustaining floating residences in the past, but this prototype project, AutarkHome, is the first I’ve come across that's built to exacting Passivhaus standards.
Concieved by IBC Solar B.V. in collaboration with Maastricht-based architect Pieter Kromwiljk and a slew of corporate sponsors, this 130-ton, two-story abode is 10 times more energy efficient than conventional, non-floating homes of a similar size. And although AutarkHome is indeed connected to the riverbank by a gangplank, the airtight structure is completely untethered from the grid.
Topped with 24 photovoltaic modules that feed energy into a 24-battery strong solar energy storage unit, AutarkHome also features a bio-diesel backup generator that powers the home in the event of super-cloudy stretches of weather. Water is heated by six additional solar collectors which also heat the two-bedroom home through hydronic radiant flooring. Additionally, a heat recovery ventilator along with high levels of expanded polystyrene insulation and triple pane windows help the home meet Passivhaus muster.
What’s more, an on-board water treatment system composed of several tanks help to increase the stability of the structure while rendering a mainland water connection unnecessary. As you can see in the photos, the light-strewn interiors are heavily furnished by IKEA.
Peter Meijers, managing director of IBC Solar B.V., tells Renewable Energy Magazine that the “AutarkHome is a perfect example of how the homes of the future will look.” He adds: “This is of particular interest in those areas where there is an abundance of rivers and lakes and only limited housing space. This problem could be solved with the passive house, which offers a new, self-sufficient living space.”
Meijers goes on to explain that AutarkHome, which has emerged as somewhat of a hotspot in Maastricht since it first docked, will soon be mass-produced. Although the prototype took nine months to build, Meijers anticipate that future models will take only four.