Fully sustainable floating villas coming to UAE soon

Meet the Abu Dhabi man who is building 50 floating villas. The fully sustainable villas will create their own power and fresh water, and treat waste.

Berend Lens Van Rijn, his wife, Joanna, and their baby twins, Lilly and Leonard, at the Marasy Marina. Reem Mohammed / The National
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Abu Dhabi resident Berend Lens van Rijn is looking forward to life on the water, once his floating home is built. But it won't be a "houseboat" in the conventional sense of the word.

Van Rijn, the Dutch founder of ­Belevari Marine, has sold several Dutch-style houseboats to people in the UAE. But now, his vision for ocean living has gone a step further.

Van Rijn is heading a project that’s building 50 autonomous floating villas – one of which will be for himself, his wife and 9-month-old twins to live on. The fully sustainable villas will create their own power and fresh water, and treat waste.

“These villas have all the qualities of a beautiful home,” he says. “They will be about 15 metres long and eight metres wide, so the equivalent of a 50-foot catamaran. But whereas a catamaran would weigh maybe 15 tonnes, these units will weigh 180 tonnes, which means they’re super-stable. It feels like a home, because it never moves – unless there’s a tsunami.”

The three-storey villas, which come with terraces and attached floating pools, are being built on floating concrete hollow boxes, “like the hull of a boat”, with the basement inside. “That means that the centrepoint of gravity is lower and that the stability increases,” he explains.

The villas, which are among several floating-­homes projects under development in the UAE, will feature as part of a resort development at Dubai’s World ­Islands.

But Van Rijn has also contributed to the design of his own floating home, in collaboration with a Spanish designer, with the safety of his two young children in mind. It will be located off the coast of Abu Dhabi.

“Our villa has two cubes, which can be connected by a safety rail, so the kids are contained and stay at least a metre away from the water,” he says. “Later, it’ll be easy to upgrade when my twins are a bit bigger.”

Van Rijn is eyeing Reem Island as a location for a “floating community” in Abu Dhabi. “I’m 100 per cent sure that once this thing starts to roll [in Dubai], developers will want to chat with us about building a floating community in Abu Dhabi, with its own floating school, nursery, restaurant or cafe.”