Maldives’ floating city unfolds –

Maldives’ floating city unfolds –

A floating city is being developed near Malé, the capital of the Maldives. /Waterstudio.NL/Dutch Docklands

2022.10.09 Sun Published at 17:30 JST

CNN’s Nell Lewis Video by Milly Chan

Cities are being built on the Indian Ocean. This floating city on a turquoise lagoon is just a 10-minute boat ride from Malé, the capital of the Maldives, and can accommodate 20,000 people.

Designed to resemble a brain coral pattern, the city is made up of 5,000 water units, including residences, restaurants, shops and schools, with canals between them. The first few units were announced in June, but residents will begin moving in in early 2024. By 2027, the entire city will be complete.

The project, a joint venture between property developer Dutch Docklands and the Maldives government, is neither an outlandish experiment nor a revolutionary move. The city was built to address the harsh reality of rising sea levels.

Consisting of 1,190 low-lying islands, the Maldives is one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world, with 80 percent of its land area below one meter of sea level. Sea levels are projected to rise by a meter by the end of the century, threatening to submerge almost the entire country.

But if a city floats on the sea, it will rise with the sea level. It is a “new hope” for the Maldivian population of more than 500,000, said Cohen Ortuis, founder of Water Studio, the architecture firm that designed the city. “This city can prove that affordable housing, large communities and ordinary towns exist and are safe on water. They (Maldives) will go from climate refugees to climate innovators,” Orthuis said confidently.

Floating Architecture Center

Orthuis was born and raised in the Netherlands, where about a third of the land is below sea level, and Orthuis has spent his entire life by the water. His mother was a shipbuilder and his father came from a family of architects and engineers, so it seemed natural for Orthuis to combine the two. In 2003, Orthuis founded Water Studio, an architecture firm specializing in floating buildings.

There were also signs of climate change at the time, Orthuis said, but they were not considered strong enough to build a company to fight climate change. The biggest problem at the time was that of land: cities were expanding, but there was not much land available for new urban development.

Global Adaptation Center (GCA) floating office in Rotterdam

But in recent years, climate change has pushed floating architecture into the mainstream, Orthuis said. In fact, over the past 20 years, Water Studios has designed more than 300 floating homes, offices, schools and medical centers around the world.

The Netherlands is at the center of this trend, with a number of water parks and floating dairy farms, as well as floating office buildings that house the Global Adaptation Center (GCA), an organization focused on scaling up solutions for climate change adaptation. There is

GCA chief executive Patrick Bercooyen sees floating buildings as a practical and cost-effective solution to rising sea levels.

“If we don’t address these flood risks now, we will pay a huge price in the future,” Bercooyen told CNN. “Either we delay addressing climate and pay for it later, or we plan and thrive. Floating offices and floating buildings are part of this future climate plan.”

Floods cost the global economy more than $82 billion in damages to the global economy last year, according to reinsurer Swiss Re, and the damage will increase as climate change leads to more extreme weather. The World Resources Institute (WRI) also estimated in a report that by 2030, more than $700 billion in urban real estate will be affected annually by coastal and riverine flooding.

Bercooyen said that while floating construction has gained momentum in recent years, there are still challenges in terms of scale and price. “The next step in the journey (to popularize floating buildings) is how to scale up and speed up (construction). Scaling up and speeding up is a priority.”

An ordinary town, except that it floats on the water.

The Maldives project aims to build a city that can accommodate 20,000 people in less than 5 years, while achieving the scale and speed of construction. Several other floating cities are also under construction, including Oceanix City in Busan, South Korea, and a series of floating islands in the Baltic Sea being developed by Dutch company Blue21, but with limited scale and construction progress. Maldives.

Water Studio’s floating city captivates locals with its iridescent houses, expansive balconies and waterfront vistas. Residents can also take a boat ride around the city, walk or bike on sandy roads, or ride electric scooters and buggies.

Malé, the capital of the Maldives, is overcrowded.

The city also has vacant land that is hard to come by in the capital Male. Male is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with more than 200,000 people living in an area of ​​approximately 8 square kilometers. Real estate prices have also skyrocketed, with prices as high as $150,000 for a studio and $250,000 for a family home on Hulhumalé, an artificial island built to ease overcrowding in Male, Ortuis said. It is said that

In the case of Water Studio’s floating city, the modular units are assembled at a local shipyard and towed to the floating city. Once in place, the modular units will be attached to the large concrete hull in the water. The hull is anchored to the seabed by telescoping steel struts, allowing the unit to gently rise and fall with the movement of the waves. The coral reef surrounding the city also acts as a natural breakwater, stabilizing the city and preventing residents from seasickness.

Orthuis said the potential environmental impact of the structure was rigorously assessed by local coral experts and approved by government authorities before construction began. Artificial coral blocks made of foam glass are also attached to the bottom of the floating city to support marine life, thereby promoting natural coral growth, Orthuis said.

It also aims to make floating cities self-sufficient and perform the same functions as cities on land. The electricity is mainly generated on-site by solar energy, and the sewage is also treated on-site and reused as plant fertilizer. Also, instead of using air conditioning, deep sea water is used for cooling. For example, cold water is pumped from the deep ocean and poured into lagoons. Thereby saving energy.

Orthuis hopes to take floating architecture to the next level by developing a fully functional floating city in the Maldives. Instead of “weird buildings” in posh locations for the super-rich, Orthuis says, it’s an inexpensive and practical solution to climate change and urbanization.

“As an architect, if you want to make a difference, you have to scale up,” Orthuis said.

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