How to travel light

From the port of Magdeburg throughout Europe – young entrepreneurs build floating dream houses

Houseboats are in line with the current trend. Whether as a permanent residence, a weekend house or a holiday home, those who crave close proximity with nature yet want to remain mobile don’t need much: a bedroom, a bathroom, a living and dining area, a sun terrace on the deck – and an unobstructed view of the water from any perspective. It sounds very minimalistic, but can in fact be very luxurious– depending on the individual preferences of the customers of Andre Becker and Robert Naumann. These two young entrepreneurs are building dream houses for water in their Haus und Boot Manufaktur (“House & Boat Factory) in Saxony-Anhalt’s state capital Magdeburg for customers from all over Europe.

Innovative, long-lasting and environmentally friendly

Andre Becker is a qualified master boat-builder and shipbuilder, and Robert Naumann is a skilled fitter. Together with two employees, the small team can cover all the necessary competencies for building houseboats. It is “all-round” working company that does almost everything itself – from the planning to the completion. In this way, entirely individually made houseboats are created at the shipyard in the Magdeburg “Science Port”. The individual items are planned and made according to customer request – including the room layout, floor coverings, colours and furnishings. The customer determines everything. Several months pass by until a houseboat is finished: the construction starts with the substructure. Then the fibre-reinforced plastic floats are moulded by means of an innovative laminating process. The floor construction, setting up the framework and making and installing the walls follows. After the insulation and cladding are finished, other work follows: the interior construction, the installation of electrical equipment as well as the plumbing and heating system, floors are laid, the windows and doors are put in, the walls are painted and the inner rooms are furnished – everything is always also done with longevity in mind. “We integrate innovative materials such as extremely light fibre-reinforced plastic sheets which reduce the weight to the extent that the houseboat is propelled by no more than 15 horsepower, which enables driving the boat to be driven without a licence,” explains Robert Naumann. “And naturally the focus here is on environmental friendliness. Energy generation through photovoltaics and hybrid electric drives are topics which we want to address more in the future,” adds Andre Becker.

From the port of Magdeburg throughout Europe

Situated in the former trade port of Magdeburg, where cereals, coffee and sugar were loaded for over 200 years, the company deliberately decided on this location in its founding year 2013. “We are sitting here in the heart of Germany, have a connection to the Elbe River with its links to Hamburg and the Czech Republic as well as the Mittelland Canal and the Elbe-Havel Canal. From here we can get almost everywhere via the waterways. This is also optimal for the transport of houseboats. A majority of the floating houses can be brought to customers directly via the water. But recently we also had to use heavy-duty transport on Lake Zurich. That also works,” explains Robert Naumann. The inquiries – which incidentally come from all over Europe – are just as distinct as the houseboats. “Usually the houseboats are year-round permanent homes, but houseboats are also used as a holiday home or party location. For example, we recently had an inquiry from Budapest for a houseboat that’s to be used for meetings and seminars,” explain the two business owners.

Adventurous houseboats with technical highlights

Constant further development is a priority for the company. “We also want to orient ourselves to the market for rental houseboats in the future.” The concept for an adventurous “experience-oriented” serially manufactured houseboat – a houseboat with technical features and an innovative design – emerged in the course of a collaboration with an interdisciplinary team of students from the Otto von Guericke University of Magdeburg. In close cooperation with the two boat builders, the students performed a market and economic analysis and prepared CAD models and plans. “Our cooperation has proven more than successful. It is great that the students have a very different perspective and such an innovative concept has emerged,” explains Robert Naumann. It wasn’t just a modern look that was prioritised – technical features were also important for the students. “They also focussed on the smart handling of the boat. In this context, the control stand also provides a lot of information regarding the region and operation. In this way, the customer obtains all the information they need, also via a tablet.” The project is still in its infancy. “At the moment we will reach our capacity limits during production, but we are in the process of laying the foundations so as to expand our company. An implementation of serial production is ultimately conceivable in 2018 or 2019.”

The cooperation between the regional company and the university was initiated through the “Science-to-Market-Accelerators for Regional Transfer” (SMART) research project, with the goal of the increased networking of science and business in the region. In this respect, the development of new products is made possible for small and medium-sized enterprises which only have limited capacities for research. At the same time, students get the opportunity to work together with a practice partner and to practically implement the theory they learn about in their lectures. It is a win-win situation for all those involved.

author/photo: Jennifer Koch

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