The strongest storm to hit the US in more than 25 years, and the most powerful on record in the Florida Panhandle, 2018’s Hurricane Michael brought near-category-five status 155mph winds to the Sunshine State. And together with the ensuing storm surge, claimed over 70 lives across the US and Central America, as well as causing an estimated $25billion in damage. It hit Florida’s Mexico Beach as some places in the state were still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Irma, the Category 3 storm that ripped through the area the previous year, highlighting the area’s vulnerability to hurricanes. And indeed, according to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's Hurricane Research Division, three of the top five most vulnerable US cities to hurricanes are Florida-based.
With Miami taking the top spot, with a 16 per cent chance of experiencing the impacts of a hurricane in any given year, it’s perhaps unsurprising that a locally based design firm is behind a pioneering wind, surge and flood-resistant solution to local living. Arkup’s “future-proof” livable yachts, designed in collaboration with Dutch firm Waterstudio, are built to withstand or avoid extreme weather events, and operate 100 per cent off-grid. And courtesy of Artefacto, the Brazilian furnishings company with a strong commitment to sustainability, the floating residences now also come complete with eco-friendly furnishings.
While floating houses are already a common way of living in certain parts of the world, such as the Netherlands, their popularity looks set to rise as many coastal cities struggle to come up with resiliency plans in the face of rising sea levels. Arkup’s modern, cube-like structures or “arks” are as mobile as any large boat — with 272 horsepower — and thus are able to motor away from serious tropical storms. But they also feature retractable hydraulic "spuds" that can lift them out of the water onto 40-foot stilts, protecting them from the waves.
As well as having all the features of a regular boat, the floating homes are also completely solar powered. As Arkup co-founder Nicolas Derouin explained to the Miami New Times’ Tarpley Hitt, “The roof is covered with solar panels. The propulsion is electric; the thrusters are electric. There’s no noise, no gas, no emissions. In addition to generating solar power through the roof, it’s also storing energy in the hull battery. It collects rainwater, stores it, and purifies it. You can live completely off-grid.”
Designed with Miami’s luxury housing market in mind, the two-story floating homes boast impressive interiors. Each one also features an open-air rooftop lounge, as well as sliding glass doors which extend across the front façade leading out on to a terrace. And while initially conceived to appeal to individual high net worth buyers, the company ultimately aims to create entire neighborhoods based on the houseboat communities in the Netherlands. These “floating communities” will be economically diverse, Derouin explained to Hitt.