Behind the Drawing Board of Zero Emission Trimaran DOMUS

By Emily Dawkins

Rob Doyle Design and Van Geest Design have partnered up to bring an innovative new superyacht concept to the industry: 40m sailing trimaran DOMUS. With space and performance paramount to the design, DOMUS has been created as the, 'first truly zero emission yacht over 750 gross tonnes’. sat down with Rob Doyle and Mark Small of Rob Doyle Design, and Pieter Van Geest of Van Geest Design, to find out more about this groundbreaking concept.

With a wealth of yachting knowledge and years of design expertise under their belts, Irish yacht design and naval architecture firm, Rob Doyle Design, and Dutch yacht design studio, Van Geest Design, have created nothing short of a masterpiece with their latest superyacht concept.  

40m DOMUS is a completely unique one-floor trimaran concept powered by sustainable technologies that challenges the conventions of yacht design. Named after the Latin word 'domus' which means, ‘a single-storey house built around a courtyard known as an atrium’, the 40m vessel cleverly recreates this bungalow-style experience onboard. Six guest staterooms, including two expansive owner’s suites with private lounge areas, cleverly span across the one deck, and surround two courtyards which can open or close from above. Alongside this, a cinema room, gym, sauna, massage room and swimming pool are just some of the incredible amenities packed onboard. 

Featuring a combination of solar power, hydro regeneration and hydrogen fuel cells, DOMUS has an unlimited range with zero emissions, with an optimised battery storage that allows for complete silence when at anchor. 

As a unique, innovative and completely original design concept, we spoke to the trio behind the design to find out more. 

Where did the inspiration for DOMUS come from?

Rob Doyle: We had a client approach us about a 40m catamaran which we started drawing up together, and we quickly saw that we were coming into the standard roadblocks that most multihulls experience. We know that with racing multihulls the trimaran is always faster, and so we looked at simplifying the boat by having all the systems and rigging loads in the main hull, with the two hulls on either side for tankage, storage and tenders. We saw a huge amount of advantages for a trimaran, and once we took that step forward we said “let's push it”. Let's see how far we can go with the beam before we run into difficulties, whilst having an eye on making sure it can be built. What we suddenly discovered was that there are so many advantages of going down this road that it kept getting better and better. So from there we came up with the amazing DOMUS concept. 

How did you come to create her unique design?

RD: We were trying not to do the Google search of “what do catamarans and multihulls look like”, which is the biggest problem with the industry - that it is dictated by Google. People often Google “superyachts”, see a couple of yacht designs and decide that they ultimately want a 2.0 of the designer’s last boat, which makes all the boats very similar. We however, just started with a blank piece of paper. We wanted to go to our client and give him something fresh. It was a big risk, but we knew we were on a far better path and we could give him an amazing product by doing it this way. 

Mark Small: It’s amazing how much DOMUS has touched a chord with people. We’ve been looking at it for a while and trying to come up with the best plan, but we didn't realise how good of an idea we hit on until we got the reaction from the public which was fantastic. 

How long did the design process take?

RD: We’ve been working on this for about 4 or 5 months. No sketch is wasted and we’re constantly layering. You’re dictated by the development and the process of designing. Designers never stop drawing, it's in our nature to keep drawing until someone says stop or you've run out of time, so DOMUS constantly evolved!

MS: The great fun about it is that our mantra is “no idea is too mad”! It may not ultimately end up being there, but certainly nothing is off the table.

Pieter Van Geest: We’ve known each other for almost 30 years so it's been a very friendly collaboration. We all talk the same language, we all like to do new things. For us, copy and paste just doesn't fit our DNA.

Is DOMUS able to be built?

RD: That's our number one goal for all our concepts. We don't sketch boats that can’t be built. You see these crazy designs coming out and you know they can't be built, so we always start with a very solid foundation in regards to, how do we build this? How do we make the shipyard's construction easier? It has to be plausible before we make the jump forward with the layouts and systems; we need to know that we can actually build it first before we take that jump forward. 

As a completely new, never-built-before vessel, how would you expect the build process to happen?

RD: If you look at how big ships are built, they are generally built in sections and then brought to the dry dock for assembly. That process is certainly repeatable with the trimaran. It’s possible to build and it's not something that hasn't been done before: all big ships and cruise liners are built on this modular approach, and there does have to be a touch of reality to it. So many concepts are copy and paste or in flights of fantasy and are produced for clickbait. This can be built and that's why we’re expecting the hard questions.

MS: We approached one or two yards to get a feel for this with them and they were extremely enthusiastic, they really have a can-do attitude. The yard’s have an appetite for it, we have an appetite for it, and obviously the market seems to have an appetite for it too: there's nothing else like it. 

How did you come to reach the impressive characterisation of DOMUS being the ‘first truly zero emission yacht’?

RD: We know this is feasible, it's not that it's a pie in the sky. All the technologies are currently available and being used. The uniqueness of DOMUS is that we’ve been able to combine all those particular elements and are able to fit all this technology onboard: this is why it will be zero emission. We have to be very clear however that it doesn't mean that it's carbon neutral. What we’re talking about is as the boat operates, it will not emit any emissions. 

How will she provide a comfortable sailing experience as a trimaran?

MS: DOMUS has the advantages of being a multihull, she’s not going to rock and roll at anchor, so has that real comfort and stability. When you’re at anchor you have your own private island and it's easy to get ashore with the tenders. 

Why did you decide on a one-floor interior layout? 

RD: We quickly realised that the interior was so vast we had to change how we designed it. So Pieter suggested an apartment set up. Once you break it up into these spaces, suddenly it all worked. 

PVG: The challenge is that superyacht trimarans don't really exist. To look at all the other catamarans you can quickly see that the outer hulls are used for the cabins. This is a shame because you get staircases and it starts to become a more complicated and costly build. It was relatively easy to decide, and we started to think about if we do it all on one floor, what are we going to put in it? When we started to develop this we had the family in mind, so we wanted it to be protected too. 

MS: The way that clients seem to be using their boats has changed since the pandemic: they’re spending a lot more time onboard and that needs to change the way that we look at and approach the boat. That's why we created these two enormous owner’s cabins onboard that have their own private sitting room: it's like a private apartment onboard. That is something exceptional on a 40m boat, you may see it on 80-90m where you have private decks but you just don't get that on a 40m, and that's the advantage of the space that we have. We also have two 8m tenders onboard. For a 40m boat that's incredible. Each of these are in the outside hulls which makes it very easy for the guests and the crew to move ashore.

What can we expect from Rob Doyle Design and Van Geest Design next?

RD: We’re quite comfortable with difficult projects. Our history has always been the tip of the sword with technology, whether it's the biggest rig in the world, or the biggest aluminium boat in the world, we’ve done a lot of those through our milestones over the last two and a half decades. The way the industry is going, we’ve tried to package the boats into a much more compact space: bigger isn't always best, yes we’ll always go that way, but with the 40m, we’ve packed a 60m motor boat into a sailing boat. That's a challenge that we enjoy doing: thinking a little bit differently from everybody else's metrics, and just making sure that we can do something different. 

PVG: From our point of view, this is all really exciting as we always try to come up with new “things”, which is difficult because you don't always achieve them. In our design history, we have a couple of unique projects but this is definitely top because it has never been done before. It's all doable and sensible, and we look at each other and think why didn't anyone else come up with this before? 

"We’ve packed a 60m motor boat into a 40m sailing boat. That's a challenge that we enjoy doing; thinking a little bit differently from everybody else's metrics and just making sure that we can do something different."

Rob Doyle, Rob Doyle Design


"We’ve packed a 60m motor boat into a 40m sailing boat. That's a challenge that we enjoy doing; thinking a little bit differently from everybody else's metrics and just making sure that we can do something different."

Rob Doyle, Rob Doyle Design
By Emily Dawkins