A United Nations group and a major New York-based biotech company are among players joining forces to build what could become the world’s first floating city adaptable to rising sea levels.
Called Oceanix Busan, it is named after the large coastal city in South Korea for which the yet to be built project is planned.
The project will help cities facing land scarcity and also deal with climate change-related weather events such as extreme flooding, according to the initiative’s officials.
And the CEO of the company set to develop it argues that one could be built in Toronto given its proximity to a major body of water.
The project looks like floating platforms, hexagonal in shape, about 15 acres in size and anchored in shallow water to the bottom of the ocean, lake or river.
Cables that secure platforms expand and contract with water levels, making them resistant to hurricanes and flooding, Oceanix Inc. CEO Philipp Hofmann said in an interview. telephone. The project would also be stabilized horizontally, with cables attached to the ground on the shore, he added.
The platforms could house a hotel, residential units and university or college dormitories, and house around 6,000 people at a time, say those behind the project.
For people standing atop the platforms, there would be no bumping or swaying sensation caused by choppy waters, Hofmann says, adding that gravity would be absorbed by the platforms’ buoyancy.
“It’s not for deployment on the high seas. Rather, it’s an inland port, a river delta, or near a coastal city,” says Hofmann.
The project design was jointly unveiled at the end of April at the United Nations headquarters in New York by Oceanix, the city of Busan and UN-Habitat, an offshoot of the United Nations that works with partners to build “inclusive, safe, resilient projects and Sustainable Cities and Communities” in more than 90 countries.
One of the main architects is the well-known Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), the firm that designed the soon-to-be-coming King Toronto condominiums at King St. West, which feature mountaintop-style designs and units covered with leaves. The other is Samoo (Samsung Group), a Seoul-based company in South Korea whose work includes arts, culture and sports facilities in that county.
“The challenge is enormous: two out of five people in the world live within 100 kilometers of the coast, and 90% of the world’s megacities are vulnerable to rising sea levels. Floods destroy billions of dollars…d infrastructure and forcing millions of climate refugees from their homes,” UN-Habitat said in a statement at the inauguration of Oceanix Busan.
“We have partnered with UN-Habitat and Oceanix to be the first to prototype and develop this bold idea because our common future hangs in the balance in the face of rising sea levels and its devastating impact on coastal cities” , said Park Heong-joon, mayor. of the Busan Metropolitan City, said in a statement.
The project shows how “floating infrastructure can create new land for coastal towns looking for sustainable ways to expand on the ocean,” Hofmann said at the time.
Busan, in the southeastern part of South Korea and the country’s second most populous city, signed up for the project last year.
The Port of Amsterdam has Silodam, which is a 160-unit complex that sits in the water, so the idea of floating infrastructure that supports human habitation is not new. The Oceanix project is different, however, because of its ability to adapt to sea level.
In an interview, Hofmann said building a floating city in Busan could cost up to $600 million.
But he went on to say that the city’s port may not be the first site to host the project, due to delays due to a complex approval process involving the region’s federal government, a central government and the government. from the city.
But even though Busan isn’t the first to take on the project, there are a “multitude of geographies where we talk to developers (and) governments,” Hofmann says, referring to the “parallel” conversations taking place with other cities, though he declined to go into specifics.
“I can’t say which site will come up first, but I’m confident among 20 geographies that we’ve identified as low hanging fruit that the project will be built in the next (few) years.”
There are large coastal populations in cities like Singapore and Hong Kong where a floating city could be successful, he continued. The project could even theoretically work in places like New York and Toronto, where there are large bodies of water, he added.
Asked to comment on a floating city from a local perspective, Shauna Brail, associate professor at the Institute for Management and Innovation at the University of Toronto Mississauga, expressed reservations.
She said the concept is both an attempt to experiment with design and technology in the face of rising sea levels and an example of “idyllic and utopian” urban planning.
“Would that draw attention to the town? Yes. Could this help identify innovative ways of living with rising sea levels? Perhaps.
“But, even if building a floating neighborhood made sense, I have a hard time imagining the politics of building it in Toronto. Negotiating the details and getting permissions and consensus around governance, approval processes, public funding and public consultation are some of the hurdles that would need to be overcome,” Brail said.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION