New York's Waterpod: Doing A Lot With A Little


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It’s truly amazing what you can do with the near-limitless potential of aquatic architecture. I suspect that the only reason why aquatic architecture isn’t more popular than it is now is because it has a reputation for being somewhat pricey. Further complicating matters, aquatic architecture has strong ties to the green movement, which tends to emphasize expensive technology while placing more focus on conservation than profit.

New York’s new Waterpod may change all that by challenging popular perceptions about aquatic architecture and the price tag of sustainability. The Waterpod is basically a self-sustaining boat that will drift through New York’s rivers. Topped with a miniature garden, the Waterpod will act as a floating home for one or two residents who are willing to spend their lives living entirely off of a self-sufficient floating ecosystem.


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Lonny Grafman, the project’s sustainability adviser, explained that he had his students design “projects for the Waterpod… including rainwater catchment and filtration systems, bicycle power, wind power, hydroponics, a composting toilet, and a chicken coop.”

It all might sound a bit complicated, but Grafman assured the interviewer that “this is all sophomore-level stuff.” In fact, it’s possible to piece together technology like this on a shoestring budget. A refitted bike, a toilet that doesn’t use any plumbing, and a chicken coop — those items are about as cheap as they come. He added, “Our chicken coop and composting toilet are both built from shipping crates. Our greywater tanks are made with plastic molasses and high-fructose corn syrup containers used by breweries.”


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Most of the expensive stuff comes from the energy-efficient systems, like the world’s most energy-efficient refrigerator or the solar panels. If green energy doesn’t really float your boat, then you can easily explore aquascaping projects without worrying about a $100,000 price tag. Waterpod goes to show you that you can cobble together something great on a shoestring project, especially if you care more about functionality than aesthetics.

Is the Waterpod pretty? Well, that depends largely on whether or not you find beauty in rusticity. It isn’t necessarily the most elegant, but if the designers had a bigger budget and were able to spend more of their time worrying about appearances, then they undoubtedly would have been able to pull off a beautiful piece of aquatic architecture like the models envisioned in the early drafts.


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In general, just try to keep an open mind when it comes to aquatic architecture. You will undoubtedly get a better product overall if you’re willing to write a bigger check, but there’s nothing saying that you can’t also create a beautiful piece of aquatic art on a limited budget.


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