By Carlos Andrés Caviedes
Editors: by Nathalie Mezza-Garcia and Nataly Velaquez Rodriguez
Looking back in time, water has been a central pillar for the development of civilizations, just as it was for the Ancient Egyptians who based their economy on the waterways of the Nile River. Considering that 71% of our planet's surface is made up of water, (USGS, 2019) the rapid growth of earth's population during the last decade and the land scarcity crisis, new alternative ways of urban development should be foreseen to create and expand land usage. Also the technological advances that exist nowadays make room for more reliable planning and development processes. This will hopefully result in user-centred spaces that are sustainable in time and have a low impact on the enviroment. Floating hotels, villas and rooms, to mention some types of floating buildings represent a new paradigm of urbanising over water, one that could supply in a rational way the actual high demand for tourist accommodations.
Using sustainable materials in the construction of floating developments may help compensate for the ecological impact that constructions close to water or on water have on the marine environment. As it would typically happen in any other scenario, there's always a reaction from the habitat when a foreign body is inserted. But Floating Architecture or Aquatecture tends to focus on altering the environment. This is why design and location become a decision or even a multilateral dialog between multiple stakeholders, including at the initial phases. . Therefore the preference of alternative methods of energy supply and production, waste and water treatment becomes a matter of great importance for the field. With the help of underwater turbines, generators, solar panels, tidal recolectors among ingenious inventions that would define the margins for follow up, especially in non developed countries where access to these technologies is limited.
The proliferation of floating edifices, especially hotels has shown that the ecological, social and even economic advantages of aquatecture outperforms in many cases traditional construction methods.
L’île Flottante - Recycled Floating Hotel Island
Built-in a low to middle GDP country that is often identified only due to its economic, social, and political challenges, the L’île Flottante floats over a platform made out of 700,000 plastic bottles in the Ébrié Lagoon at the Ivory Coast, in Africa. Each week, this floating hotel houses up to 100 tourists from around the globe, contributing significatively to the local economy. The positive impact that this hotel has had over the local population is so strong that new initiatives replicating this technique have been outspreading in the region. The emergence of more buildings like this one could potentially drag upwards regional, and even national economies, benefiting a places’ habitants, and nature, on land and sometimes underwater.
Ivory Coast's capital, Abidjan, produces around 288 tons of plastic waste daily according to UNICEF data, a staggering amount for a population of around 5.5 million people. There are not many regulations that address this growing problem in Ivory Coast, in comparison to other 34 African countries, which do.
This has not been possible in Ivory Coast because attempted bills have been buried by powerful manufacturers in the country since 2013. Nothing currently imposes limits on the disposal and usage of polymers. Amid the high pollution levels, many initiatives in the country have surged for recycling. L’île Flottante is one of these that uses floating developments to tackle social, habitational, and economic issues in a sustainable way.
Thanks to how floating constructions rise up and down with water levels, climate change and in particular rising sea levels aren't a major problem for these structures. They move with the tide and cause no deforestation. These two points are very attractive reasons as to why an attractive future urbanised on water.
In addition to the environmental benefits floating buildings show by preserving offshore energy resources resulting in economic benefits. Owners or investors could secure an economical entry by selling the energy that could possibly be collected and commercialized afterward, just as it is done on an industrial level in offshore oil rigs. All these benefits account for reasons why at Seaphia we focus a significant portion of our work on generating awareness. One of our aims is to show the benefits of these development trends. Places like Ivory Coast, the Caribbean, and South American countries with access to water and strong tourism economies could benefit the most out of similar projects.