Floating cities and facilities

The idea of floating communities and cities is moving off the drawing board towards reality. The scale and complexity vary – from extensions to existing waterfronts to complete, independent settlements for 50,000 people. But it is not only homes that could float: food production, energy generation, data centres, golf courses and even prisons have all been discussed.

What is changing?

In cities such as London, Rotterdam, Chicago and Boston floating communities and floating waterfront developments are being explored for leisure and housing. They are extensions of existing developments and tied in with existing systems. Other developments go much further. They are creating self-contained facilities which aim to be as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible, providing food using hydroponics, including green spaces for animals and residents, generating energy from wave and solar power, harvesting water and using desalination, and managing waste with composting toilets.

In cities such as London, Rotterdam, Chicago and Boston floating communities and floating waterfront developments are being explored for leisure and housing. They are extensions of existing developments and tied in with existing systems. Other developments go much further. They are creating self-contained facilities which aim to be as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible, providing food using hydroponics, including green spaces for animals and residents, generating energy from wave and solar power, harvesting water and using desalination, and managing waste with composting toilets.

  • The Seasteading Institute is working with Delta Sync and has developed detailed outlines. It is not only raising finance, but negotiating with cities where they might locate the first offshore communities and talking with individuals interested in living on board. Their aim is not just to build self-contained communities, but to try to reframe politics. They hope to have the first community built by 2020.
  • In China, the construction company CCCC, which is currently building the 21 mile long bridge near Hong Kong, is working with a London based design team. They are adapting the bridge technology to create floating hexagonal blocks, which will provide above and below water accommodation, linked by tunnels. • Shimizu, a Japanese construction company has plans for floating islands by 2025. It is exploring the options with Kirbati, an island community threatened by rising sea levels. The islands would have a central tower for habitation, offices and shops, but also water collection, food and energy production. They in turn would be surrounded by forest, beaches and natural environments.
  • The Freedom Ship is intended to be a luxury floating apartment block, 25 storeys high, a mile long and costing $10 billion. Complete with schools, shops, art gallery and casino, it would circle the globe once every two years stopping off here and there for short periods – but never entering ports – and cater for up to 50,000 people plus 30,000 visitors.

Cities, especially in emerging countries, face significant challenges in providing food for citizens. One option, Sealeaf is inspired by and modelled on traditional floating farms in Bangladesh, but the modern version can produce 18 crops per year compared with two in traditional farms, and has controlled sunlight to improve growing. Local people could come by boat to harvest the crops. Another scheme suggests using floating greenhouses with hydroponic and aeroponic – spraying crops with water and nutrients – technology. They are aiming for markets such as the US, Singapore or Israel- and estimate that 2.5 acre floating farm would cost about $3 million.

Implications

Cities, especially in emerging economies, face huge challenges and are not only potentially economic powerhouses but also major sources of pollution, GHG emissions, and disease.

While floating communities are unlikely to solve the world’s housing crisis, food supply problems or reduce emissions levels in the short term, they may help develop technologies which can make cities and houses more sustainable in the long term. Small scale structures which are completely self-contained are already possible; these developments may help scale the systems up to be able to cater for whole communities, on land too.

To find more resources on Shaping Tomorrow about floating cities and other floating facilities some of which were used in this Trend Alert. View Floating Citiesreport.

Also, click here to find out how Shaping Tomorrow can help your organisation rapidly assess and respond to these and other key issues affecting your business.

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