In the Nevada desert, a building floats on water

June 2011 News Pete Griffin -

Nevada is largely desert, yet a unique new building floats on water there -- and it's raising eyebrows.

It's built of rice hulls, Styrofoam, and recycled tires, and it's still as solid as any other structure -- well, any structure that's literally floating in the middle of a lake. The new operations office for luxury houseboat rental firm Forever Resorts is the world's first "floating building" to register for a gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. 

And even the builder himself is stunned that he pulled it off.

"My first reaction was, 'How are you gonna build on water?'" independent contractor Ken Couverley told "There are just too many variables to think about when you're building on water."

Couverly took two years to figure it out, but once he did, the final product was a 2,000 square-foot building that's currently sailing in the middle of Lake Mohave Marina. The building was unveiled to the public for the first time on June 6; it's the world's first to register for gold under the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) umbrella. 

In order to get the certification, the materials used to construct the building must be completely "eco-friendly."

But outside of the environmental factors, Forever Resorts vice president Rod Taylor said the decision to build on water was also about convenience.

"It's closer to where all the activity is," Taylor told "Otherwise, everybody would have to walk farther to get all their material and check in for their boat."

So what classifies a building as "floating?" 

For starters, it has to be built on water, of course, meaning construction was akin to putting together a puzzle. First, steel frames were attached to flotation devices filled with expanded Styrofoam, which serve as the building's foundation. Next, a platform made of rice hulls and recycled plastic was laid on top of these frames. Finally, the actual operations building, which has a sub-floor made of recycled carpet and an exterior coating made of recycled tires, was attached to the platform.

But constructing this jigsaw puzzle had its fair share of challenges.

"We would actually float the building itself to the launch ramp and bring the crane over to stack the material on the building and then bring it back over to finish assembling," Taylor said.

Couverly said another challenge was simply dealing with nature.

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