NW3 Bloxom Floating Home

O'Brien and Company
G. Little Construction
Lanker Design LLC

2017 Fairview Ave E
Slip H
Seattle, WA 98102

SUNday Only, 11am - 5pm

Site Description

Water Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Indoor Air Quality, Materials Efficiency, Design Innovation, Solar Power, Green Roof, Advanced Building Envelope

This new floating home replaces a houseboat that was originally built at the turn of the century. When that houseboat burned down in 2007, it remained on the water as a burnt shell until early 2015. Below the water were 22 old growth cedar logs perfectly preserved, but the rest of the structure was lost. Fast forward to 2011 when design was conceptualized for a new home.

The idea was to create a structure to showcase design elements that would promote the preservation of shoreline habitat, and to create something that was more than just a personal retreat, but also a call to action. The owner, Bill Bloxom, had lived on a houseboat before and knew what that was like: A close knit community, many visitors, beautiful views, and fun recreation. He also realized it could be a great opportunity to do something different. This could be a chance to give back to the lake somehow and have a positive environmental impact. This new floating home replaces a houseboat that was originally built at the turn of the century. When that houseboat burned down in 2007, it remained on the water as a burnt shell until early 2015. Below the water were 22 old growth cedar logs perfectly preserved, but the rest of the structure was lost. What if we could improve shoreline with new structures instead of taking away from it? Fast forward to 2011 when design was conceptualized for a new home.

He hired designer, Gloria Andrade, who visualized a house that would seem to come alive on the water as it breached the surface to take a breath both literally and figuratively. In order to create a home that could be both a refuge and a beacon for change, the whimsical concept had to be infused with environmentally conscience design elements that would be highly visible and easy to operate and maintain.

The core team of Gloria, Bill’s wife and architect, Michelle Lanker, and Bob Little, the contractor, has made sure every detail of the new 2025sf home has been approached from a sustainable viewpoint. Walls and roof are designed with maximum insulation thicknesses/ minimum air leakage possibility. Exterior materials have been chosen for minimum maintenance and maximum durability. The exterior cement fiber wall paneling is installed as a rain screen system to prevent any possible moisture infiltration. 2/3rds of the roof is covered by a 5.32Kw solar array installed over a standing seam metal roof and 1/3rd is a vegetated roof system to help insulate further the interior space. The curved line of the roof lends to making both systems visible to passersby on the water as well as on the dock. To promote the use of alternative modes of transportation, the house includes access to a bike garage in the basement via a floor hatch in an outdoor closet that allows access, secure storage, and maintenance space for multiple bikes.

On the inside, finishes have been selected that are made from salvaged, recycled, or rapidly renewable materials as much as possible. The old growth cedar logs were salvaged from the old houseboat and incorporated into the dramatic curved ceiling and built-in elements. Windows throughout the house provide purposeful views to the lake and strategic operable locations give the ability to vent the house naturally during warm months. Low-e triple glazing minimizes solar heat gain while still bringing in maximum day lighting. During cold months, the house is heated by a geothermal heating system that captures heat from the lake and feeds a heat pump that circulates warm water through an in-floor hydraulic loop. LED light fixtures are used exclusively as well as ENERGY STAR appliances and water efficient fixtures. The project is registered with the certification goal of LEED® Platinum.

Last but certainly not least, the house is designed to showcase the most important feature, a highly innovative approach to restoring shoreline that is located below the floating home's deck. In-water planters called floating islands are suspended in the water from the deck structure. They are made from a recycled plastic matrix material that allows the root systems of the native wetland plants that are planted in them to grow through and eventually extend to the water below creating fish habitat. The material also allows friendly bacteria to colonize it as they feed on the excess nutrients in the water, cleaning it and discouraging suffocating algae growth. The concrete float of the home becomes an observation room for studying these floating islands through a large underwater window.
Now that the house has been towed from where it was built in Port Townsend to its permanent home on Lake Union it can become a catalyst for change. We hope this project demonstrates how we can build smarter around our waterways by its innovative approach to shoreline restoration and its multiple sustainable features. We can utilize the benefits the lake provides while at the same time be a benefit to the lake. We can inspire as well as be inspired.