Would you live in city that floats, produces its own food and is resilient to natural disasters like hurricanes and floods?
It may one day become a reality, according to Oceanix, a company of architects, engineers and sustainability experts who design and build floating cities.
It recently unveiled the design of its "Oceanix City," a collection of floating platforms or "neighborhoods," which can hold up to 1,650 residents each, according to the company.
Six of the floating platforms would make up a village with approximately 10,000 residents, according to Oceanix. Each neighborhood would cluster around a central harbor that serves as the heart of the city, with a public square and market place.
The platforms would float though they would be moored to the ocean floor, and they would be located about a mile from a major coastal city.
Marc Collins Chen, CEO of Oceanix, tells CNBC Make It that people will work, live and play in the self-sustaining city.
"It's not envisioned as a daily commuter city, though it will be located about one or two kilometers from mainland."
The floating city would produce its own power and heat using renewable sources like solar, wind, wave and current. The fresh water supply would come from vapor distillation technology, atmospheric water generators and rain harvesting systems, according to Chen, and a closed-loop integrated water reuse systems would eliminate water waste. The cities would also have a system that transports garbage through tubes to a remote station.
On the bottom of the platforms would be a system that harvests seafood like scallops and grow produce year-round, with the goal to feed all the residents.
There would be no high-rises and no cars.
The components of the cities would be modular and built in factories instead of using traditional construction methods, says Chen, and once built, the modules will be towed to their final anchored sites.
"The choice of building material is also essential here," says Chen. "We are not going for marble or gold-plated interiors. We will use locally sourced, natural and repurposed materials." Timber would be the main building material, and it would be designed to withstand natural disasters including tsunamis and Category 5 hurricanes, according to the company.
If approved, construction of Ocean City would take about five years, according to Chen, from prototyping to securing the site, permits and actual buildings. "It is too early to determine the exact building cost," Chen says.
So where might you find a floating city?
Chen says coastal cities facing housing shortages or problems due to rising sea levels or flooding would be candidates.
"Floating cities are not affected by rising sea levels; they are buoyant and rise with the water," says Chen. "They are therefore flood-proof."
He names Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and San Francisco as candidates.
The floating city will be part of its host city, and have its own based on that, Chen says.
There has been push back on the idea of floating cities, which could be expensive to build, according to Engineering.com, which compared Oceanix to a planned floating city project that would cost approximately $176 million for 300 full-time residents (whereas Oceanix would have 10,000 people). "Transporting people, goods and waste to and from the shore" is another high cost Engineering.com points out.
Chen, however, says that "floating cities will be cheaper than living in major cities because the underlying cost of 'land' (water) is virtually free." However one has to wonder whether it is at all likely that would remain the case if people did live in floating cities; entrepreneurs are already trying to commercialize space.
Chen believes the biggest challenge for one of these cities coming to fruition is the psychological aspect of supporting something so unique.
"Generally speaking," says Chen, "there are people who are still not comfortable with the notion of living on the water, though cruise ships are really floating cities that move from port to port."
And "there are communities worldwide that have lived on the ocean for many years, some hundreds, like the Tanka in China, Uros people in Peru, Bajau in Indonesia, Makoko community in Nigeria and thousands of floating homes in the Netherlands, " he says.
Oceanix architect Bjarke Ingels designed and built the Urban Rigger, a floating student housing complex in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2016. One complex has 15 residences and "may be Copenhagen's answer to affordable housing, " according to Fortune.
And The World, a residential cruise ship with wealthy residents that have minimum net worth of $10 million, is considered a "floating city."
The United Nations supports Oceanix too.
At a roundtable meeting at the United Nations in April, Oceanix's concept was supported and endorsed by Amina J. Mohammed, the U.N.'s deputy secretary-general.
"Our approaches to development and environmental sustainability in cities need a serious retooling to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow," Mohammed said at the roundtable. "Floating cities can be part of our new arsenal of tools."
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