Chris Miller and his wife Sze Liu Lai lived in a tiny flat in East London with their two children Alexion and Tayszea. It was very tight for space and as the kids grew they really felt in need of more room. Chris and Sze are both social workers on low incomes and they have very little in the way of savings. They did however own a small narrow boat, which inspired a solution to their ‘no money, no space’ dilemma. They decided to build a houseboat which would give them more space for a fraction of the price of a home on land. They began with an 86ft steel barge moored in a boatyard on the River Medway.
Chris and Sze were totally committed to adopting an eco friendly lifestyle and due to their lack of funds, came up with a very radical approach - using nothing but reclaimed materials.
With no design and no drawings, they began with only a mental image of what they wanted. Their first idea was to build a superstructure from whatever materials they could find. They wanted a tower to provide them with a raised entrance lobby, keeping the lower decks private and providing an excellent place to mount a wind generator.
The arrangement inside was still anyone’s guess. From the tower, a spiral staircase - if they could find one - would lead down through the boat to the two decks below. In the hull, three bedrooms were planned with a family bathroom in which Chris hoped to put a composting toilet and recycled water system.
Upstairs was to be one single, long, open plan living room. Every window and door relied on whatever Chris could find second hand. In the kitchen area they planned a wood burning stove to cook on and to provide hot water and heating, but only if they could reclaim one from somewhere.
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