Floating Housing (And Golf Courses) For Post-Climate-Change Island Paradises

A new resort development in the Maldives (currently sitting five feet above sea level) will be ready if the country starts to go underwater—the whole thing is already floating.

Coming to a real estate catalog soon: private floating islands and luxurious villas made to withstand climate change. Price: $10 million, plus. Location: the Maldives—a beautiful, climate-endangered set of islands in the Indian Ocean.

The idea is a joint project of the government and Dutch Docklands, a developer from the Netherlands that’s drawing on national expertise to help one of the most threatened countries on the planet. The Maldives is only five feet above sea level, and is likely to be one of the first countries affected by shifts in the atmosphere.

Architect Koen Olthuis—Waterstudio.NL. Developer Dutch Docklands—www.dutchdocklands.com.

As well as the private island, the scheme envisages a floating 18-hole golf course (complete with underwater, see-through tunnels between holes), a hotel and convention center , the "Ocean Flower" with 185 villas, and the White Lagoon—four ringed islands composed of 72 houses.

The price isn’t cheap. The villas start at $1 million, and "palaces" on the golf course will cost more than $10 million. The total development cost is likely to be well in excess of $500 million (the golf course is the most expensive ever, according to Docklands’ CEO Paul van de Camp).

But the partners see the projects as a proving ground for floating island technology, and some of the profits will be used in a separate social-housing project near the chronically congested capital, Malé. The high-end projects are set to begin construction this October, with the low-cost ones following in about a year’s time.

The islands are attached to the seabed with flexible lines, or retractable mono-piles, which allow the structures to move gently up and down. Van de Camp points to several benefits, aside from coping with climate change. For one, Maldives can add to its hotel capacity, which is running in short supply. Of the Maldives’ 1200-plus lagoons, most of the 200 developable ones are full-up. And it can maintain its reputation as a pristine marine environment.

"It’s not only for climate change. It’s good because they don’t have enough space," Van de Camp says. "Building islands is a better option than reclaiming land, which would be a disaster for the coral reefs and the fish. The government wants to protect the marine environment."

The islands can also be moved if necessary––for instance if the residents find a better spot, or if weather conditions become unbearable. Van de Camp says they barely leave a trace.

His firm has received dozens of inquiries from cities interested in extending their shorelines out to sea. But as well as luxury developments, he also sees possibilities to relieve conditions in low-lying urban slums in places like Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and India.

Architect Koen Olthuis—Waterstudio.NL. Developer Dutch Docklands—www.dutchdocklands.com.

"There are many slums on wetlands—land that governments cannot use for anything else. There is so much piling that the water doesn’t flush, and you get diseases and infections."

Floating platforms would help the water to circulate, raising health standards, he says. And the islands’ standalone solar units would offer a better source of power than running expensive new infrastructure from the grid.

Koen Olthuis, Van de Camp’s architect-partner, has identified 20 major city slums where he thinks a low-cost version of its technology could be beneficial. Dutch Docklands plans to set out the idea later this year, following the Maldives roll-out. If the high-end projects help fund and inform the low-cost ones, all the better.

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  • RichardMorris358

    Check out Liberty Island on YouTube by Richard Morris. Floating Island held up by airpressure.

  • Patrick D

    Fascinating.  Surely the architects and engineers have considered all these factors, but I wonder along with Bangikoi how the island will get freshwater and deal with sewage.  Also, whether there have been any studies on the impacts of the development on marine mammals and other life (would the noise and activity keep them away/disrupt feeding behaivor?).  I echo the concerns of Laurenclinch that underwater golf tunnels on the sea floor could do more damage than good. 

  • Magdaturek

    I suppose in the age of the credit crunch any idea to generate money is smart.
    Why would people use the social business/ responsible business rethorics and abuse the whole very noble idea just to make profit? like, a good PR in place of the genuine ethical invlovment.
    the conference re the Social Innovation was overly sponsored by PWC. i mean, that's actually worse than straigtforward corporate ideology, which at least is honest enough to state they are there TO MAKE MONEY

  • Tuci78

    The designs look cool in a Popular Mechanics kinda way, but they're hideously vulnerable to well-understood weather effects, particularly the major cyclonic storms (typhoons, hurricanes) which inevitably pound the snot out of small islands. 

    And would it be impermissible in this forum to observe that despite continuing acceleration along the Keeling curve (i.e., the rates of increase in anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 just keeps going up and up and up with absolutely no prospect at all of ever abating), there's been no measurable global average temperature increase of any statistical significance in the past decade and more, as had been predicted by the very expensive "hockey stick"-graphing mathematical models confabulated by the "consensus" climate alarmists?

    According to the catastrophist orthodoxy, shouldn't the Maldives have been drowned completely about half-a-dozen years ago? 

    The validity of a scientific concept is assessed by assessing its ability to predict.  The AGW conjecture keeps failing this test.  Isn't it time that acknowledgement of reality intrudes upon the insensate advocacy of this preposterous bogosity?

  • GeoBill

    that was so nicely put.  Thanks.  I mean if we have been on this train wreck for say 200 years, and the rate of change is enough to affect the Maldives in the next ten years, then it follows that we will all be swimming in 15 years and I think that is BS.

  • Bangikoi

    Interesting idea but what would be done for drinking water supply (rainwater? desal?) and, perhaps more of a challenge, sewage and solid waste disposal?

  • Rockyden

    This design is very cool, but let's not fool ourselves about it being green or a positive for the third world.  How about stop having too many kids. We chastise those who live on the coast or on river floodplains, etc. for being short-sighted, but now it is cool to spend excessive capital to expand high risk environments.  I say if you can afford it, bask in that capacity but don't try to steal the truth as well. this is politically correct delusion.

  • Hampton

    I don't think he was saying EVERYONE should stop having kids, but that those living in areas/climates unsuitable for human life should stop having kids, rather than us constantly trying to alter the environment to make it simply surviveable.

  • Dexter Nelson

    Stop having kids. yeah, that'll solve the problem... not. Having kids isn't going to affect the current generation - in fact, if everyone stops having kids, it would take decades before we see adjustment to a lower population, and it still wouldn't matter right now and in the near, when it counts the most. The problem is almost an immediate one, so short-sighted is the way to go as far as ideas go. Also I have an aversion to "stop having kids" solution. One generation is about 80 years, give or take the average life expectancy for a male or female. All it it would take to drive humans to near extinction is to stop having kids for a generation. We don't see it now because there are a few billion of us walking around, but if everyone stopped having kids our population would drop to a crawl. We have a really high population right now mostly because we have a lot of baby boomers and post war new babies - that's where soldiers are gone for a really long time away from home and the first thing they and their girl's/wives do when they get back home is to make babies. I think it's a smart idea for a short term need, with long term potential

  • Laurenclinch

    I think this could be an incredible development and definitely an exciting new direction for the future in terms of a solution to over populated cities. However I am not so sure about the underwater tunnels for the golf courses. If the idea is protect the marine habitat would these sort of works not do more damage to the ocean floor than good, unless the tunnels are floating as well?

  • Rockyden

     Shouldn't we just move to higher ground or simply wait our turn to visit cool places on the earth. Is the will to see exotic locations worth risking the impact we may bring. Is a visit to cool areas more valuable than the thrill of accelerating from 0-60 in 4 seconds. The former is an unthinking display of nature while the later is a celebration of the cumulative genius of man and his innovative mind. Are we just brutes who want to have pleasure or are we people of thinking and creation.  Just throwing it out there.  I think this will to explore has led to more colonialism and heartache or death to native peoples. But heck the white man rules...I propose that there is no stronger force in the world than a white man hell-bent on infiltrating a place where he doesn't belong. 

  • Michelle

    I agree, it would seem that increasing tourism capacity and building islands will damage the natural environment by creating greater boat traffic, waste etc. I think this is a really interesting idea but given that the majority of marine life can be found within a short distance from any shoreline, I can only imagine that there will be significant damage to these habitats if extending land out to sea.