Architecture & Design

Tiny House, Meet Tiny Houseboat: Is This the Answer to Sea-Level Rise in South Florida?

The Hauser Boat, shown above, is intended to be a cost-effective, hurricane and rising sea-level-resistant floating home, says developer Michael Saavedra.
The Hauser Boat, shown above, is intended to be a cost-effective, hurricane and rising sea-level-resistant floating home, says developer Michael Saavedra. Photo courtesy of Modern Struktures
It's a place where climate-change disasters threaten thousands of homes, where the real estate market is among the most expensive (and limited) in the United States, where sea-level rise threatens to submerge entire coastal communities: Welcome to South Florida.

The National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration projects sea levels to rise two feet by 2060 and as much as six feet by 2100. For years, South Florida cities — particularly Miami — have topped lists identifying areas most vulnerable to the potentially devastating effects of sea-level rise. That's something Hollywood-area floating-home developer Michael Saavedra has been acutely aware of when researching his most recent design: the Hauser Boat.

"I wanted to bring some of that ingenuity back to South Florida and, in the process, develop a unit specifically for our salty, sunny, harsh environment, while [also] keeping hurricanes in mind," Saavedra tells New Times. "The Hauser Boat was developed for the purpose of adjusting to the rising sea levels, higher annual flooding, and minimizing the disruptions that may come with relocations."
While the concept of floating homes in South Florida is nothing new, they're more often than not marketed as sleek floating mansions complete with luxury amenities. Case in point: Miami-based floating home developer Arkup offers "future-proof" vessels, which are supposedly flood-resistant, capable of withstanding Category 4 hurricanes, and priced around $5.5 million. 

The introduction of the Hauser Boat seeks to offer affordable living on the water for people who may not possess the financial means to purchase what amounts to their own private island. These particular models measure 10 feet by 32 feet and come fully furnished, with a price tag that ranges from $120,000 to $150,000.

According to Saavedra, CEO of the Broward-based Modern Strukture houseboat-building firm, the Hauser boat's exteriors are built entirely of aluminum, right down to the pontoons upon which they're situated, engineered from top to bottom with climate-related threats in mind.

As part of his research for the concept, Saavedra visited floating-home marinas in coastal cities, including Seattle and Portland, for inspiration. He says he intends to make future models solar-powered and to equip them with a water desalination system and onboard sewage-treatment capabilities.

"In effect, they will be survival pods for worst-case flood and sea-level rise scenarios, whilst being practical for daily use. The Hauser Boat is designed to be a multiuse, hurricane-tolerant, additional living space, with a dual purpose of mitigating short- and long-term sea-level rise," he sums up.
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Michael Majchrowicz is a former staff writer at Miami New Times. He studied journalism at Indiana University and has reported for PolitiFact, The New York Times, Washington Post, the Post and Courier, and Tampa Bay Times.