Amphibious houses, Oceanix’s floating city adapts to sea level rise

Florida prepares for Hurricane Ian. Hurricane Fiona has just devastated Puerto Rico, flooding the island and leaving hundreds of thousands without access to electricity or running water. Meanwhile, floods in Pakistan have claimed over 1,600 lives.

To combat some of the worst consequences of flooding, a new industry of floating infrastructure is emerging. There are two different approaches being put forward as possible solutions: retrofitting housing for amphibious use and building floating city blocks.

Amphibious houses can preserve the accessibility of the house and preserve the cozy porch culture in places like Louisiana, said Elizabeth English, founder and director of The Buoyant Foundation Project.

English’s design places a steel frame under a house, and then under that, in the crawl space, buoyancy elements. Her team then recommends adding elements to prevent lateral movement so the home doesn’t float away while on the flood surface. She said this works best in shotgun-style homes without basements, and because all changes are made below the first floor, the rest of the house can remain unchanged. She estimated that a contractor could do such a retrofit for about $20 to $30 per unit. square feet, but cautioned that the Federal Emergency Management Agency currently discourages this type of construction practice.

In the long run, English warned that “retrofitting is generally not a good way to make money because each one is individual and has to be custom designed. And so it’s very expensive.” However, she hopes her design can help preserve the culture and give communities one way to help as they decide how to adapt to rising sea levels.

Modern floating cities are the brainchild of architect Bjarke Ingels. He told CNBC that he hopes his Oceanix City, currently planned to be built in the port near Busan, South Korea, will be “a city that is the most resilient city you can imagine, but at the same time the most entertaining city. that you can imagine.”

Artist performance courtesy of Oceanix, BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group.

“The floating city will be made up of several islands, so to speak. But one island is 1.6 hectares, which is about four acres, and fits about 3,000 people,” Oceanix CEO Philipp Hofmann told CNBC. The prototype, which is being developed under the UN Human Settlements programme, will consist of three “islands”, which are initially self-contained city blocks: one for hospitality, one for research and one for living. Each platform costs about $150 million to $200 million, according to Oceanix.

“We really hope it will be a successful project and we would like to replicate it in other parts of the world,” Maimunah Mohd Sharif, executive director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, told CNBC about the Oceanix development. She said the world needs to look more at adaptation and hopes the project can help mitigate or even solve the problem of sea level rise.

“I’m not afraid to fail. But I think we learn from it. So let’s do it,” she said.

Watch out for video above to learn more about how floating infrastructure is seen as a crucial adaptation to the threat of rising sea levels.

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