Miami is ground zero for sea level rise. It’s also a city of fabulous luxury, and a taste for the aquatic life. Enter Arkup, which is basically an over-the-top, environmentally friendly houseboat as big as a full-sized house that can elevate itself on pilings above the water, like a luxury addition to Stiltsville. And it was designed and built in Miami by two French engineers, Nicolas Derouin and Arnaud Luguet. They are currently showing off the first Arkup, if you will, which at the moment is parked behind a Palm Island mansion and visible to everybody going between Miami and Miami Beach.
Arkup is in many ways a response to sea level rise but not a scardy-cat, raise-the-dykes-and-install-pumps sense. “It is happening before our eyes,” Derouin told the Miami Herald. “Coastal areas are the most desirable but also the most at risk. Miami is implementing resiliency measures. We hope Arkup can be a small part of the solution.” Derouin and Luguet were inspired by the Netherlands, where one-third of the country is below sea level and people live with it instead of fighting it.
It certainly feels like a very ‘Miami’ house. Like many of the newer mansions built in Miami Beach, Arkup is a floating glass box. Over a total of 4,350 square feet, 2,600 square feet of which is air-conditioned interior space with the rest being balconies and terraces, there are 4 bedrooms with ensuite baths, and a large living area and kitchen. Like many open-plan luxury homes in Miami, the dining room is just sort of an open area in the middle. There’s also a powder room, of course, and a full-sized washer and dryer. The kitchen has Miele appliances. The rooms are big, and the ceilings are high, reaching 9-1/2-feet on the first floor and 8-1/2-feet on the second. It’s 75 feet long and 32 feet wide. There’s a huge, sliding glass wall on one side that connects the entire living area with a retractable, 450 square foot platform that extends out from the side of the boat, and an outdoor ‘summer’ kitchen.
Arkup’s steel hull features four large, 40-foot hydraulic pylons that can anchor it to the sea floor, stabilizing it from waves or tidal movements, and are strong enough to elevate the entire thing above the water. In a shallow bay, like Miami’s, that means Arkup could go 25 feet above the waves. It would be the tallest house in Miami’s famous Stiltsville, out in Biscayne Bay, by far.
Plus it’s a yacht. Sort of. Arkup goes 7 miles an hour, with a range of 20 miles from its battery that can be extended with additional batteries or a generator. It has rear thrusters that push it along. It’s designed to putt-putt around, not see the world. Anyways, it’s built to withstand Catagory 4 hurricanes. How many yachts can claim that?
“A motor yacht is the opposite of sustainable,” Derouin told the Miami Herald. Luckily, the mansion next door to its current mooring has an obnoxious yacht parked out back that he can cock his head toward while saying that, for dramatic effect. “Large engines. Massive fuel consumption. Pollution. On Arkup you can live completely off the grid with no bills for energy or water. It is zero emission, carbon neutral. In this house, you don’t need to rebuild your seawalls or move your air conditioner to higher ground. Compared to the costs of a waterfront home, Arkup is competitive.”
Arkup’s roof is covered in solar panels that can completely power it, and a battery that conserves enough energy for nighttime use. It has a 4,000 gallon freshwater tank, and an equally sized waste water tank. It harvests rainwater as well.
Arkup, right now, is undoubtedly a luxury product, but the designers have bigger goals. They hope it’s a model of one way Miami can adapt to sea level rise, and the precursor to vastly more affordable options in the near future. “We want to design small apartments on the water for students, townhouses for families,” Derouin said. “We want to create housing solutions for a broader audience. That’s the vision behind Arkup.”