- floating homes power and heat themselves
Loving Life on Water
Floating homes are becoming increasingly popular in Germany – not only as holiday homes, but also as permanent residences. Now scientists at two Fraunhofer Institutes based in Dresden are developing a floating house that can produce its own water, electricity and heat in a bid to populate a large lake district that is poorly served by utilities.
Europe’s Largest Artificial Lake District
Europe’s Largest Artificial Lake District The Lusatian Lake District (Lausitzer Seenland) is particularly suitable for such a lifestyle: with its 23 lakes and a surface area of over 32 000 acres, it is the largest artificial lake district in Europe. For decades the region between Saxony and Brandenburg had been characterized by open-cast lignite coal mining. Now living on water will help enhance the region’s attractiveness and boost its economy.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems (IVI) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS), have partnered with medium-size companies, manufacturers, the Technical University of Dresden (TUD) and the Technical University of Brandenburg (BTU) to form the Lusatian autartec® project. By 2017 they aim to have the first a floating home on Lake Geierswalde, northwest of Hoyerswerda.
Living Energy Independent on Water
The house combines modern architecture and structural engineering with state-of-the-art equipment and building facilities. Set on a 13m x 13m steel pontoon it has 75m2 on the ground floor and 34m2 on the first floor. A 15 square meter terrace overlooks the entire lake.
Advanced Alternative Technology
Not only will this look elegant, it will also be able to provide for its own water, electricity and heat. For example, solar cells are integrated in the building envelope and lithium polymer batteries store the collected energy. In order to save space, the battery systems developed at IVI are integrated into the textile concrete walls or into the stair elements.
"These kinds of energy self-sufficient floating homes do not exist yet," says autartec® project coordinator Professor Matthias Klingner of IVI. With many lakes in the Lusatian Lake District cut off from infrastructure such as water and energy supply, he says “We want to find a solution for this kind of environment,"
Heating & Cooling Research
Researchers at IVI are also working on the efficient provision of heating and cooling systems. A salt hydrate fireplace provides heat on cold winter days. Above the fireplace there is a tub filled with water and salt hydrates. “When the fireplace is on, the salt hydrates liquefy and begin to absorb heat,“ Dr. Burkhard Fassauer of IKTS explains. When the salt hydrates are completely liquefied, the thermal energy can be stored almost indefinitely. In order to release the heat when required, radio-based technology is used to induce crystallization.
Integrated Solar Cells
Solar cells are integrated into the building envelope and lithium polymer batteries store the collected energy. To save space, the battery systems developed at IVI are integrated into the textile concrete walls or into stairs.
Pocket Warmer Principle
The principle used in pocket warmers induces crystallization, a metal disc inside is clicked so that the pocket warmer solidifies and gives off heat. When heated in water, the crystals liquefy and the heat is stored until the next click. However, a fireplace is not enough to heat the house during the winter. This is where a zeolith thermal storage unit in the pontoon can help. The zeolith minerals are dried during the summer – a purely physical process in which heat is stored. “In winter, the moist air is enough for the storage unit to give off heat," Fassauer explains.
Cooling without AirCon
An adiabatic cooling system provides for cool air in the summer. Unlike conventional air conditioning systems, it does not require electricity but uses the principle of evaporative humidification to cool. A surface on the side of the house is landscaped and moistened and the process of evaporation then cools the building envelope.
Closed Loop Water
The experts at IKTS are currently developing and experimenting with a closed loop system for drinking and service water, It will rely on a combination of ceramic membranes and various electrochemical and photocatalytic processes. Whereas on-shore wastewater is usually treated using biological processes, this is not possible in a floating house. Using physical and chemical methods with ceramics brings together processes like photocatalysis, electrochemistry and filtration in a confined space. Other materials such as steel and plastic would fail in such aggressive processes. The equipment for the circulatory system will be accommodated in the pontoon.
Like a pocket warmer
In order to release the heat when required, radio-based technology is used to induce crystallization. The principle is known from commercial pocket warmers where, to induce crystallization, a metal disc inside is clicked so that the pocket warmer solidifies and gives off heat. When heated in water, the crystals liquefy and the heat is stored until the next click.
UK’s First Amphibious House
As technical timber frame designers & builders of the UK's 1st Amphibious House, our experience is being increasingly called on to consult on floating homes and flood plain developments. We combine this with our approach to Low Energy Buildings to help deliver highly innovative, efficient and economical buildings
Early Engagement in Design
As Building Physics becomes increasingly important, early engagement of the fabric providers / manufacturers and their architectural technologist is highly desirable. Their specialist guidance on the structure and materials to be used, as well as construction sequencing, can save significantly on time, effort and costs. As demand grows and the house-building industry is increasingly under pressure to deliver greater output, many architects and builders are turning to firms able to interpret and deliver properly ‘sustainable solutions’ to secure high quality, factory produced elements and deliver better value in their projects.