Technology isn’t a barrier to us living on floating cities

  Last updated June 11, 2019 at 8:20 am


Researchers say it isn’t technology that’s holding back floating ocean cities, but political and commercial barriers.

The reality of floating ocean cities is closer than you’d think.

A revolutionary design for a floating utopia in the middle of the ocean, Oceanix City, was presented to the United Nations (UN) in April this year at its first Round Table on Sustainable Floating Cities.

It all seems very SimCity.

But according to technology and construction lawyer Brydon Wang from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), the technology exists for us to build these ocean cities. However, it’s political and commercial barriers that are preventing us from moving seawards.

The utopia of floating city living

Oceanix City is designed to be a “marine metropolis” and would rely on a sharing culture with farming to create a sustainable community.

According to the developers, the communities will be built from locally sourced materials. 100 per cent clean energy will power the city, with food and fresh water generated on site.

Over 10,000 residents could be housed over 75 hectares – which is about an equivalent density to a modern townhouse development.

However, using small apartment blocks would leave plenty of room for a market place, health and sporting facilities as well as a shopping district.

But this isn’t a one-size fits all model. The architecture of each site could be tailored to specific to social, political, economic and environmental factors.

floaitng city Oceanix

Floating cities like Oceanix are technologically possible, says a QUT expert. Credit: OCEANIX/BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group.

If you’re worried about the weather – don’t. According to the developers, if needed, the entire city can be towed to a new location to avoid any nasty storms.

The Sims never had it so good.

But these ideas are not just about houses in the middle of the ocean for the rich, say the developers. The concept could actually be a possible solution to rising sea levels and other environmental factors.

On their website, Oceanix say that the low cost of leasing space combined with locally sourced materials could lead to affordable housing for those in need in coastal cities that are impacted by rising sea levels.

Technology isn’t the problem, politics is

While it sounds fanciful, Wang says that our technology is advanced enough to make these cities a reality.

However, the sticking point will be political and commercial barriers.

In a recent article in The Conversation, Wang highlights the issue of these floating cities becoming a micronation with their own sovereignty and citizenship.

If an ocean floating city becomes a micronation, it would mean that they would have complete control of all the people and property within their territory.

Furthering the issue is the fact that many floating ocean cities would be in international waters. So the ocean utopia, could very well set up their own legal system with little regard to the authority of the country in which they were positioned near.

Arguably the most famous and successful water-based micronation, Sealand, is a prime example of when an ocean utopia can go wrong. It’s had a tumultuous history and a difficult relationship with the UK.

After a boat of British workmen entered the supposed territorial waters of Sealand, the founders son Michael Bates tried to scare the men off by firing warning shots at their boat.

As he was a British citizen at the time, he found himself in court facing firearms charges. However, the case could not proceed as the incident took place outside of British waters.

Some countries have managed to find a way around this. Take the recent attempt to create a sovereign micronation off the coast of Thailand for example.

The Thai navy claims the residents, who are now on the run, endangered national sovereignty. That offence is punishable by death.

If not housing, perhaps tourism or technology?

It might take a while until the politics surrounding floating ocean cities is sorted. However, Wang says that in his view, the future of ocean cities is in tourism and technology.

“The first opportunity is in floating tech campuses where large technology companies set up floating data centres and campuses in international waters.”

“The second prospect is a return to the seaborne leisure colonies of the past. Companies like Disney could expand on their cruise offerings to build floating theme parks. These resorts could be sited in international waters or hosted by coastal cities.”

However, despite what researchers say Oceanix is still determined to make their vision a reality. A small-scale proto-type of the Oceanix City has been planned for the East River in New York.

Until we see how that prototype goes, you may want to hold off on packing your suitcases just yet.

Additional reporting by Amelia Nichele


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About the Author

Imma Perfetto
Imma Perfetto is an Honours student in Science Communication at the University of Adelaide. She’s passionate about how we can make science fun and accessible to everyone – because that’s how she was initially (and continues to be) inspired to love science. Her other passions include all forms of carbohydrates. Find her on twitter @imma_perfetto

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