Babelgum’s New Urbanist video series is amazing, little clips of people remaking their cities one DIY project at a time. We’ll be running one per week.

First up: The Waterpod is “a floating eco-habitat that will study self-sufficient, water-based living.” Four artists take turns living on board the 30-by-100-foot barge as it moves to different sites around NYC:

Here’s how they did it, straight from their website:

  • Waterpod™ was constructed initially only modularly at the LIC Community Boat House, and then later at the GMD Shipyard in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
  • One of the goals of this project is to show that reused construction materials can be made into functional, safe, and aesthetically pleasing structures. The dome covers are being constructed by Waterpod™’s team of builders from altered repurposed awning vinyl. The soil for growing experiments has been produced by the National Parks Service, and has been tested and certified to comply with all of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation regulations. Any wooden walkways have been donated by NY Wastematch and are fireproof. Additional materials have been donated from Materials for the Arts, a NYC DCA Organization, the Parks Department, NY Wastematch, Special Projects Management, Sims Metal Management.
  • An inspection was conducted before and will be repeated after use of the barge by Waterpod™ Project. An independent marine survey will be performed on a pro bono basis by a nautical engineer from Martin Ottaway.
  • The barge will rely solely on it’s own power sources, including a vertical wind turbine (still to be received and installed), solar pv panels, bicycle power, and a pico hydro system. No fuel of any kind will be on board. Marine batteries will be used for power storage, sealed in 2kw boxes, off limits to the public. The primary power sources for Waterpod™ will be the hybrid solar/wind system set up to run all equipment on board, Secondary sources include bicycle powered rechargeable batteries and a picohydro system.
  • The living quarters will consist of: four rooms with bed/shelf/personal items, including one guest room. In accordance with RCNY Chapter 28 3-3.1, the living units and kitchen/shower structures will have battery-operated smoke and carbon monoxide detectors placed above appropriate throughways. (a) Battery power will provide at least one years life and will be tested weekly. (b) A distinctive audible trouble signal will be emitted should the battery become inoperational (due to aging, terminal corrosion, and other factors). There will be one fire extinguisher in each space and fire retardant coats on all wood/canvas structures. An emergency and fire evacuation map will be posted within each room and building structure on board.
  • Waterpod™ will be in compliance with all city safety regulations. We have 24 security guards assigned for the duration of the installation.
  • In the event of a hurricane or other sufficiently severe meteorological conditions, Waterpod™ will be towed to a secure location. The structures have been designed and engineered to withstand 70-knot winds.


  • Weeks Marine of New Jersey has provided Waterpod™ with a commercial deck barge for the duration of the project (June – until the end of September 2009).
  • Water will be tested regularly to insure potability. A ‘rocket’ efficient wood burning stove and an outdoor solar parabolic cooking unit will be used away from sources of combustible plant matter and any building materials.
  • The Waterpod™ team is working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure compliance with all appropriate maritime codes and regulations. Pre-inspections and regular inspections have been arranged. The Coast Guard will conduct public seminars on water safety. The crew will be trained in first aid skills and fire drills will be regularly carried out. Public Address systems will be operational. USCG-approved floatation devices will be proportional to the maximum capacity for public and crew.
Jeremy Adam Smith


Jeremy Adam Smith

Jeremy Adam Smith is the editor who helped launch He's the author of The Daddy Shift (Beacon Press, June 2009); co-editor of The Compassionate Instinct (W.W. Norton

Things I share: Mainly babysitting with other parents! I also share all the transportation I can, through bikes and buses and trains and carpooling.