The Floating Village
Comments? Ideas? Want to build a village? Click here to contact me.
Most "floating city" concepts are based on a single, very large structure - needing a big, high-risk investment.
The concept here is of a floating "village" where every resident invests only in their own module, their own floating home, which can operate as part of a floating "village", operate independently or move between floating communities. It is sustainable. The "village" can flourish without being reliant on - or having an impact on - the outside world. The Seasteading Institute have designs which partially meet the requirements for this concept. Their design criteria are:
But "comfortable" is a subjective measure. Do we mean "comfortable" like a spacious, well-fitted apartment or "comfortable" more like a Wharram catamaran? The design criteria specified will have to be to some extent a compromise between "economical" and "comfortable". The habitat must be small enough to be affordable but large enough to safely and comfortably accommodate a family and normal supplies (for our modules there also needs to be room for self-sufficiency equipment)
I think we should be aiming for something that most people could live aboard without missing their home ashore too much (which may mean that the Wharram boat doesn't qualify, even though the Wharram boats can be built at a reasonable cost and are extremely seaworthy - not everyone is as hardy as James Wharram!). Comfort for a floating structure is also related to the motion of the habitat in whatever wave motion it can be expected to be subjected to. For our "flexible, sustainable" concept, we can add the following criteria:
We can build this!!
Would you like to be part of the first "village"? Email and let me know (link at the top of the page). If people are interested, we'll sort out all the legal and financial stuff and get some proper cost estimates for building our modules (boats).
Why a floating village?
A floating village frees up land area which might potentially be used for agriculture and therefore can attain lower carbon footprint than a land-based habitation. It allows prototyping and development of habitations which might be needed after a significant rise in sea level, as well as helping in a small way to reduce the imbalances leading to a rise in sea level. And a hope for the future: it allows study of the self-sufficiency and isolated social units implicit in extended space exploration.
When we think of one floating vessel beside another, we often imagine a lifeboat plunging violently up and down alongside a yacht or a freighter in rough weather. Both the yacht and the freighter are very different from the lifeboat in mass/buoyancy distribution. Identical vessels with similar weight distributions should move together with only a small phase difference as they move through a wave pattern. Heaving (up-and-down) forces between the vessels should be relatively small.
Modules could be based, for example, on James Wharram's Pahi 63 (a more yacht-like environment, perhaps not comfortable for all potential villagers although many people live aboard Wharram boats) or on a large power catamaran such as the late Malcolm Tennant's New Yorker 51 (a more "house-like" environment with, for example, greater headroom - but high fuel costs when moving modules, mitigated if a workable algae-to-bio-diesel system can be exploited (see below)). Since the mission profile for a module involves only a comparatively low percentage of main-engine cruising, there is little difference in environmental cost between a diesel engine that isn't used (and might last more than 20 years before needing replacement) and a mast, sails, sheets, winches and rigging that aren't used (but will need more frequent replacement).
Actual module design would depend on the preferences of potential occupants. A raft would be a lower cost alternative. Kon-tiki showed that a primitive raft can cross an ocean, although generally a raft is harder to move and perhaps less attractive to potential owners than a catamaran. For a monohull boat rolling amplitudes would be relatively high and the usable area relatively low.
The aim is to experiment with methods of approaching self-sufficiency, but without going back to the level of comfort of the stone age. An ideal location for a first village would be in a sheltered and almost enclosed area of a sub-tropical body of water with a significant wave height less than about a metre. This would allow any waste or contamination produced by the village to be monitored. A number of experiments can take place and at the same time the forces on the inter-module linkages can be measured, for various conditions of sea and wind, and forces for more extreme conditions can be estimated. Reasonable access for any supplies that the village can't produce itself to come in - and anything that the village produces to go out - would also be advantageous.
Sustainable Construction, Operation and Disposal
The Pahi 63 is constructed essentially from 12mm douglas fir plywood, protected by fibreglass and epoxy resin, but other materials used for boats of this size include GRP, steel, aluminium (apologies to those who spell it without the second "i") foam sandwich and even ferrocement.
Life cycle analysis of possible materials and combinations of materials (perhaps steel hulls and ply superstructure) will help decide the best material to use, taking into account the whole (probable) lifetime of the module. I must admit I much prefer working with wood than with GRP, but some studies at Newcastle University (link here) indicate that wood is the best material to use anyway.. ...Here is (or will be) a start at costing a 15m plywood power catamaran.
This is now (January 2012) over two years into a part-time PhD project! Click here for the proposal. I'll put a link here to the work in progress as soon as its presentable.
Other Concepts for Floating (but not sustainable or flexible) Habitations:
The Nexus floating city
The Living Universe Foundation
...and some data from Wikipedia on Ocean colonisation
Some modules might specialise in one or more of the following:
|Power Generation||Food/water Supplies||
|Aquaculture (link to Wiki article)||Marine research||gray water recycling|
|Solar Furnace||Algaculture||Hotel/eco-tourism||black water|
|Hydroponics||Education||organic (e.g. food) waste|
|Wind Turbines||Exercise facilities||non-organic waste|
|main engine generator||reverse osmosis|