March 4, 2021

The UN thinks about floating cities to face the climate crisis | Innovation


Living on floating islands anchored to the seabed about two kilometers from the coast. It seems science fiction but it is one of the many solutions that the UN is studying for coastal areas threatened by overpopulation and the climate crisis. The so-called floating cities have two notable advantages over their terrestrial neighbors: there are no expensive lands to pay and, when the sea level rises, it will be enough to extend more chain than anchor them to the bottom.

The project that more closely follows the UN is called Oceanix and began as an idea of ​​Marc Collins Chen, a former French Polynesian tourism minister who knows the problem closely. In the Pacific Islands, sea level is rising much faster than in the rest of the planet: since 2016, five islands have disappeared completely.

Collins Chen thinks of adding neighborhoods to existing cities and not moving 200 nautical miles away in search of international waters. Its objective is to help the communities that need it. The model city of Oceanix, inhabited by about 10,000 people and up to two kilometers from the coast to avoid tsunamis, will consist of a set of hexagonal platforms of two hectares (about three soccer fields) and space for 300 people each. What will link each hexagonal module to the bottom will not be a traditional anchor but biorock, a much more resistant material that mimics the reefs and could, therefore, generate new marine life.

"We started talking to UN Habitat (the United Nations Human Settlements Program) in November last year on how to find accommodation for the 2.5 billion people who will come to live in the cities by 2050, when there will be no enough houses, water, energy or food, "Chen Collins explained during a Skype interview with THE RETINA COUNTRY. "We are not saying that floating infrastructures are the solution for all the problems of coastal cities but it is one of them and, of course, much better than throwing sand on the sea to continue building, something that destroys the essential vegetation to resist the erosion of the waves ".

Oceanix's plan is for floating cities to be able to produce their own energy, their own food (hydroponic and aquaponic crops) and their own beverage (passive desalination) generating the least possible impact thanks to a comprehensive recycling system. In the words of Collins Chen, "if in the world's largest cities the ecological footprint (the land and water needed to generate resources and assimilate the waste produced by the population) becomes between five and seven hectares per resident, in Oceanix will be half a hectare. "

In the opinion of Bjarke Ingels, the Danish architect in charge of the project, what will allow Oceanix to reach that degree of ecological efficiency will not be the use of technologies that already exist, but the novelty of the whole system as a whole. "One of the challenges of sustainable urban planning is that cleaner and more efficient technologies always have to compete with systems that, although they are worse, are already installed in the place. A floating city is a unique situation because there are no systems installed, that's why we see it as an opportunity to develop the latest technologies with the best practices. "

Solved the problems of basic survival, the next question is who freely chooses to live in a floating city. However stable it is, nothing like the mainland. And the idea of ​​needing a boat to travel to the office (for those who can't work from the island) can bother many, even if those boats are powered by solar energy.

The price could be one of the keys. According to Ingels, build the modules in series and use renewable and lightweight materials such as bamboo and other woods It will reduce costs to make the city affordable for all social classes. As Ingels says, "not having to buy the land is a wonderful opportunity to solve some of the factors that make certain types of projects in traditional cities prohibitive."

According to Jacob Kalmakoff of UN Habitat, the intention to launch it at an affordable price was key in the interest of the agency: "It is not something that UN Habitat can verify, but that the project has included affordability as an essential component of its proposal made that we were interested, as we are interested in many other possible solutions. " In addition to inviting them to a conference on the future of cities, UN Habitat has an agreement with Oceanix to provide technical assistance. The agency specializes in advising governments that plan to expand their cities and public transport in the most efficient and ecological way possible.

But perhaps the best selling point for moving to the floating islands of Oceanix is ​​the beauty of the place designed by the Ingels studio. As the Danish architect says, "sustainable cities and buildings have to be more enjoyable than their alternatives if they want to succeed, sustainability cannot mean giving up part of your quality of life because that is not attractive to anyone."

The dream of Oceanix promoters, who hope to have the first inhabited prototype within two years, goes beyond their island borders. Not because they believe that all mankind must move to a floating city but by the example they hope to set. For the islands in the process of sinking, of course, but also for cities around the world, as a model of things that can already be done. "No city has yet integrated all these things of desalination, power generation and waste treatment," explains Collins Chen. "Our intention is to use what we learn in the sea to live on earth, similar to what happened with the moon, if today we are talking on Skype it is partly due to everything that was invested for space travel".

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