Architect Michelle Lanker and her husband Bill Bloxom designed their floating house around one fundamental concept: What if new structures could improve and enrich the environment? With sustainability driving every decision, the couple collaborated with a team to build a truly sustainable, beautiful home that extends the shoreline habitat instead of taking away from it. Dubbed Houseboat H, the home truly has a symbiotic relationship with the lake. Far more than a getaway, this stunning home with priceless views also collects data on the ways in which intentional, ecologically-friendly design can enrich and protect the environment.
The home’s most important feature are the floating islands suspended below the deck. Floating island technology was designed to improve water quality and to create new habitats for aquatic life, thereby extending the shoreline. Made from recycled plastic material, the planters allow the roots of native plants to grow through and eventually extend into the water below, creating fish habitats. A large window in the basement float of the house allows observation of the fish inhabiting these islands. Friendly bacteria colonize in the plastic material, feeding on excess nutrients in the water to discourage suffocating algae growth.
Michelle and Bill lost the original, 100-year old houseboat structure to fire. Although the structure itself was destroyed, the old-growth cedar logs which formed the traditional float for the original home were surprisingly well-preserved. The salvaged logs were dried and processed and incorporated into the interior of the home, including a dramatic curved ceiling in the bedroom and other built-in elements. The result is a stunning tribute to the original family home that honors the sustainability woven into every design feature.
With stunning view of Lake Union and the Seattle city skyline, Lanker and her team chose opening glass NanaWall systems in the living room and master bedroom to dissolve the barrier between indoors and out. The NanaWall WA67 opening glass walls fully retract to allow interaction with the lake, a vital component of houseboat life. When closed, the aluminum cladding and performance sills are engineered to perform in heavy wind and rain environments, protecting against heat loss, water penetration and air infiltration.
Sustainability reigns supreme throughout the home’s design and construction, and the sheer number of features is staggering. The walls and the roof are designed with maximum insulation thicknesses and minimum air leakage. The exterior materials have been chosen for minimum maintenance and maximum durability. Unlike traditional houseboats, there is no wood cladding on the exterior to insure against corrosion and weathering. The exterior cement fiber wall paneling is installed as a rain screen system to prevent any possible moisture infiltration. Two-thirds of the roof is covered by a 5.32 KW solar array, installed over a standing seam metal roof. The final third curved portion is a vegetated roof system to help further insulate the interior space.
A titanium plate with an 800 lineal foot transfer fluid coil loop is attached to the west side of the deck structure and extends into the water to collect heat from the lake. The lake water temperature stays at a pretty constant 45°F during the winter at the 8’-0” depth the plate is submerged to. The 30°F minimum temperature of the transfer fluid in the loop is able to absorb this temperature differential to bring back to the heat exchanger in the mechanical room. An 80-gallon storage tank supplies hot water for the household and the polished concrete heated flooring. LED light fixtures and electric systems and appliances throughout the house ensure an essentially net zero energy use since the water heater – which also provides a boost of heat during cold months - is powered by the electricity generated from the solar array.
Renewable resource materials have been used throughout the home’s interior and exterior design. All cabinetry is either cedar or bamboo, and the second story flooring and stair treads are bamboo. Concrete flooring on the main floor and basement were selected for durability and aesthetics, ensuring a lifetime of use. Wherever possible, materials were left unfinished and exposed. An Epic deck on the main floor has been left uncovered in the basement, allowing for maximum ceiling height and a unique texture. The steel structure, including support beams, were also left exposed.
Houseboat culture has always included responsible stewardship of lakes and waterways. In discussing traditional houseboat construction, Michelle Lanker explains, “While passive eco-friendly design was incorporated through deep eaves for shade provided by roofs and single story spaces with many windows for ventilation, as these houses have aged and have needed upkeep many have still not embraced the technological side of environmental design.” Lanker and her team believe that Houseboat H is the best of both worlds: It respects and celebrates the beauty of the lake aesthetically and ecologically while incorporating the benefits of cutting edge technology.
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Exterior of Houseboat H
Full height concrete basement float with Murphy bed, shelving unit, under-stairs wine cellar, Epic decking ceiling, and polished concrete floors
Home office with built-in storage, under desk dog bed, exposed structural beam, Epic decking ceiling, polished concrete floors in the full-height concrete float
Exterior shot of Houseboat H
Under ceiling wine cellar, exposed structural beam, cable railing, closet made of the wood salvaged from the original 100-year old houseboat
Living room with two-sided gas burning fireplace, bamboo stair tread, exposed structural beam, and ceiling finished with wood salvaged from the original 100-year old houseboat float
Living room with succulent planter, pendant lighting, polished concrete floor, bamboo cabinets, cable railing, and recessed lighting
Laundry room area with white cabinets and energy efficient washing machine
Two-sided gas burning fireplace, opening glass NanaWall WA67 system, polished concrete floor, exposed structural beam, recessed lighting, views of Seattle and Lake Union
Two-sided gas burning fireplace, polished concrete floors, couch, table made of salvaged wood from the original 100-year old float, opening glass NanaWall system WA67
Kitchen island with pendant lighting, exposed exterior siding, cable railing, bamboo stairs, and NanaWall folding glass system
Exposed red siding, couch, living area, cable railing, and salvaged wood coffee table
Dining room table, opening glass NanaWall system, recessed lighting
Ceiling and cabinets finished with wood salvaged from the original, 100-year old houseboat that burned down, sea green tiles, bamboo floors, drop in sink
Ceiling finished with wood from the original, 100-year old houseboat that burned down, opening glass NanaWall system WA67, balcony
Ceiling finished with wood from the original, 100-year old houseboat float that burned down
Murpy bed, Epic decking ceiling, guest powder room, polished concrete floors in the full-height concrete float basement
Opening glass NanaWall system WA67, polished concrete floors, dining room table, pendant lighting, and living area
Underwater observation window in the full-height concrete basement float with polished concrete floors
Under stair wine cellar with closet finished with wood salvaged from the original, 100-year old houseboat float, Epic decking ceiling, cable railing, and bamboo treads on stairs to main level, polished concrete floors