Floating Eco Cities Combine Green Building with Finnish Shipbuilding Expertise
The Finnish shipbuilding industry may become a future expert in building ecological cities.
– The Floating EcoCity concept offers an alternative to land reclamation islands made by suction dredging, says Aaro Söderlund, architect and lecturer of environmental history at Aalto University.
Land reclamation islands have mostly been built in parts of Asia, where land is scarce. According to Söderlund, the technique is problematic because the artificial islands show signs of receding and sensitivity to earthquakes. Not to mention the problem of dying sea beds.
Söderlund has recently exhibited the new FEC concept in Singapore, where suction dredging cannot be continued endlessly. In fact, the small and densely populated country has provisionally indicated a site both for smaller scale test building and for a full-sized Floating EcoCity.
– Cruise ships are essentially floating eco colonies, too.
The FEC also uses materials and working methods borrowed from the shipyard industry. Seven of the world's latest ten large cruise ships have been manufactured in Finland, which is why the country is now leading the global FEC concept's development.
Aalto University's R&D role
The eco city will essentially have to be built like a ship. Specifications for the center of gravity must be made, for example. Söderlund has exhibited the concept at Aalto University's Department of Applied Mechanics and, if the project advances, the department's maritime technology lab could conduct scale model testing. This would ensure the structure's flotation even during extreme circumstances such as tsunamis.
– Singapore gets three-meter tides twice a day. With functional anchoring, the eco city could extract more energy from this movement than it would find time to use.
The eco city is modular in structure, meaning that research could easily be shared with the Department of Architecture, as well.
Energy efficiency from the sea
An FEC structure could collect wave power as well as tidal and sea current power. Warm surface water and cool trench water could also be utilized, reducing energy consumption used to adjust indoor temperatures.
– The floating structure guards against earthquakes, tsunamis and floods, because the ocean offers liquid suspension. A floating island will not be left under a tsunami. It will rise above it.
What will a floating eco city look like, then? The concept consists of six caissons, each 65 meters in diameter, carrying a 250 m platform lined with 18-story buildings, surrounding a central park covered by a so-called mega tent. The mega tent protects inhabitants from extreme temperatures and weather phenomena such as typhoons, monsoons, acid rain, sand storms and air pollution.
The FEC will act as a biosphere, meaning that it's as self-sufficient as possible regarding clean energy, nutrition, air and farmland. In this biosphere, buildings' green roofs, outer walls, balconies, terraces and a central park will reduce carbon dioxide emissions and cleanse air, water and organic waste.
Demand rises as the sea level rises
Floating cities are already in demand when it comes to Asia's growth centers. In the future, trouble will spread to coastal areas like the industrialized and densely populated deltas of larger rivers, where land is typically sinking due to over-pumping the groundwater, and the sea level is rising due to climate change.
Climate refugees will become a worldwide problem. If the sea level rises two meters by the year 2100, 500 million people will be under threat along with the best residential, industrial and farming areas worldwide.
– A new kind of world is emerging, and it will require a new kind of construction, Söderlund notes.
The floating solution is expected to cost around 60% that of an equivalent ballast island. Despite its promising qualities, the concept's future is still undecided. Decisions about test-building the first FEC are now in the Singaporeans' hands. FEC developers wait in suspense.
Text: Vuokko Aro