A New Beach House, Powered By The Ocean’s Waves

Could tide-power create a new power source for coastal homes?

When surfers in South Africa wanted to build a new house on the coast, their architect decided to give them renewable energy. But instead of just hooking up some solar panels, she created a design that floats in the water and harnesses the waves.


The outer shell of the house, which will be constructed next year, will be made of concrete and anchored into the rocky coastline. Inside the concrete bunker, an inner shell made of aluminum will float in the waves–and every time a wave breaks, two types of turbines embedded in the house will generate collect kinetic energy and transform it into electricity.

“The clients approached me to design a beach house for their use, which made me think of tidal power,” says architect Margot Krasojevics. “[I’m] using this dynamic in a similar way to how surfers choreograph movement through water, only in this case it is stationary.”

The house will also have solar panels, but adding wave power has unique advantages. Tides, Krasojevics points out, are far more predictable than solar and wind energy.

Though cutting edge sustainable technology and smarter materials are beginning to become more common in industrial and commercial buildings, Krasojevics says that residential architecture has been a little slower to innovate. “Renewable energy and sustainability are still not an inherent part of the design criteria and process within architecture. It is a polite afterthought at best,” she says.

Ultimately, the architect believes that tide-powered homes could become common along coastlines–perhaps with some floating completely in the water to better adapt to rising sea levels. The key, she says, will be for architects to collaborate more with engineers working on the newest technology.

“The way in which we live is changing at a much faster rate than merely a couple of years ago,” she says. “Land and life is being lost as a result of rising water levels … climate change and financial pressures affect all of us and we need to adapt, this will involve new environments to claim. The face of the built environment is changing, and with it, so should buildings.”

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.