Being raised in a suburban setting as I’ve been, and then having moved around a bit in urban areas as a starving student, and even living in another country for a while, I’ve had a unique perspective on what “home” means in contrast to my upbringing. And by this, I mean about what my expectations are of things like floor space, the size (and necessity) of a yard, the proximity of neighbors, and other aspects of what a house, home, domicile, family dwelling, means.
As such, I thought I’d look at a trend that runs exactly contrary to many of my North American, middle-class, suburban assumptions about what a home is. What I’m talking about is the good, old fashioned houseboat.
This isn’t a new idea, of course. People have been living on the water for thousands of years, with houseboats and barges as the place they call home, rather than white picket fences and backyards. In Europe, and in the UK, there have been entire sub-cultures that have lived, raised children, even birthed children, away from dry land. Some still do, particularly in cities like London, Amsterdam, Berlin, and St. Petersberg, where canals and moorings are common within city limits.
Much of what drives this has been the idea of living with less, and making the most out of it, much of the time out of necessity. Yet, recent innovations with houseboats have shown that just because there is less space, it doesn’t meant that style and comfort is sacrificed to frugality, or austerity. And sometimes, it doesn’t even mean less space. It means a more efficient use of it. And surely, that’s the tenet behind sustainable living anyway; less waste, and greater enjoyment without it as a result.
Along with the aspect that land-use is being preserved, these new innovations in floating houses seem to naturally incorporate new energy sources like solar power, and wind power, just because the logistics of tying a houseboat to a fixed grid is more challenging, although not impossible. There is also the element that many of these types of homes are pre-fabricated, and easily incorporate green building materials in their design, both inside and out. And because they’re pre-fabricated, there is no ‘building site’, and natural environment, to damage.
Looking at alternative visions of home, houses, and lifestyles away from my middle-class, suburban expectations has made me think about how unrealistic it is to expect that everyone is owed a detached home with a big yard. This is especially true in this age where conservation and efficiency are (or very much should be) the new cultural paradigm. Once again, overcoming our cultural biases is the biggest hurdle when it comes to 21st Century sustainability. And once again, it seems that the lifestyles of past ages may be the key to formulating our expectations for life in the present and future, too.
Take a look at these 9 Eco-Friendly Houseboats to get a sense that aesthetically pleasing design and sustainability where floating homes are concerned aren’t mutually exclusive.
If you’re still not convinced, here’s an article about sustainable houseboats from Treehugger.com that give you a snapshot of what some of the newest designs in houseboats have to offer you in terms of stylish interiors.
So. Would you live in a houseboat? Why, or why not?
How about a houseboat holiday?
Tell me all about it in the comments section!