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Earth Technology

Engineers Propose Lily Pad-Like Floating Cities 309

Zothecula writes "The idea of going offshore to satisfy our renewable energy needs isn't new, but the grand vision of Japan's Shimizu Corporation goes way beyond harnessing green energy at sea for use in cities on Terra firma — it takes the whole city along for the ride. The company, along with the Super Collaborative Graduate School and Nomura Securities, is researching the technical issues involved in constructing its Green Float concept — a self-sufficient, carbon-negative floating city that would reside in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean."
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Engineers Propose Lily Pad-Like Floating Cities

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  • I wonder how the engineers for the Green Float concept solved (if, indeed they did) how such a lily-pad city concept would be able to withstand tsunamis, which a floating city in the middle of the Pacific Ocean would be especially vulnerable. Unlike tsunamis on land, a lily-pad city, I'd think, would add the additional complication that the city could sink or fragment or capsize, trapping or killing a lot of people.

    Also, with regards to the "carbon-negative" claim - do they mean carbon negative with regards

    • Re:Tsunamis (Score:5, Informative)

      by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @04:30PM (#34189746) Homepage Journal

      Tsunamis are barely detectable in the open ocean. Their height builds up as they approach land.

    • Re:Tsunamis (Score:4, Insightful)

      by olsmeister ( 1488789 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @04:32PM (#34189768)
      In the middle of the ocean, a tsunami would barely be felt or noticed.

      I'd be more interested how they intend to deal with extremists flying an A380 into the 1km high tower, and what the impact of said tower collapsing onto the lily pad would be.
      • Re:Tsunamis (Score:4, Insightful)

        by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @05:14PM (#34190234)

        I 'm willing to take that chance; it really is so improbable that its the least of my worries.

      • What, the extreamo-anti-lillypad nutcases? They usually just use garden shears.

        The impact of the main tower collapsing is that everyone in the tower and the surrounding area are dead. A lot like a skyscrapper on land.
        For protection, they'll probably use the same countermeasure that we use today: Surface to Air Missiles. Or did you think this particular security hole was still open?
    • Re:Tsunamis (Score:4, Informative)

      by RsG ( 809189 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @04:32PM (#34189772)

      Technically, Tsunamis only rise to their maximum height as they get closer to land. Out at sea, they're mostly beneath the surface. It takes a decrease in depth to force them up into the walls of water we associate them with.

      Bearing that in mind, and further considering that we can and do have ships at sea when Tsunamis happen, I assume the problem is manageable, and was probably considered for the Green Float design sometime prior to this point.

      Slightly off topic, but did anyone else notice in the overhead pics that these things look fractal derived?

    • by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @04:36PM (#34189814) Homepage

      The displacement of large water which causes the tsunami would not affect deep-water installations... now hurricanes and typhoons would be disastrous.

      Anecdotally, I was in Thailand during the Indian Ocean Tsunami. I spoke to folks who had been flooded, who swam away from floating ATM machines and such, and also a boat captain who told me that one mile out, they felt the tsunami... it was like a small sudden wave/bump and passed in a few seconds.

    • by Rivalz ( 1431453 )

      Where do you think they get their power from? Near death experiences provide the greatest source of power for the pad.
      When this pad's a rocking that's when you can use your T.V..
      I'm just curious how they will power the thing if you get 10 days of clouds in a row. Or if the salt forms on the solar panels.

      Drydock? How do they repair where it interlinks.
      I would imagine if you have to separate the center node it'd fall over. How would they fix it so that in 10 years it doesn't fall apart from wear and tear?

      • by Nadaka ( 224565 )

        I RTFA, they plan to use space based solar beamed down with microwaves... It really is ridiculously out there.

        • by RsG ( 809189 )

          Well, I think the orbital solar approach is likely to become practical before floating cities do. Since TFA makes it clear this is more pie-in-the-sky futurism than actual practical planning, it may stand to reason the designers assume that we'll be using orbital solar regularly by the time these become practical (if ever).

    • FTA:

      The islands would be located at the equator as it isn’t prone to typhoons and the climate is stable. However, in the event of large waves, strong elastic membranes would be attached to the lagoons around the outer circumference of the cells, with the shallows above the membranes standing 10m (32.8 ft) above sea level. The water pressure difference between the lagoons and the ocean would limit the movement of the membranes and buffer the force of the open sea waves. Additionally, 20-30m (66-98 ft) high seawalls would be constructed to handle a worst-case scenario.

    • Most of their carbon neutral plan seems to be based on hefty use of space based solar power in combination with dumping C02 into seawater. The first, you can do perfectly well on land, and the second you should't be doing at all.

      It sounds like a crap idea buried under a pile of justifications.
  • by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @04:30PM (#34189742) Homepage
    For the price that you pay to build a whole city on the ocean, you could probably build the city on land, build the power generation stuff in the ocean, build a bunch of redundant transmission lines between the two, and still have tons of money left over to improve your lifestyle (and if you really want "green" stuff you could use to build extra windmills or switch to organic foods or whatever else). This really makes little sense.
  • by ravan_a ( 222804 )
    First we need puddle jumpers, yes puddle jumpers.
  • Well, I guess it might work out better if they want to build new ones...

    (though realistically, probably pipe dreams anyway (nothing particularly new?), again / better to use the tech in most efficient way and place - an existing land, for example)

    • 70% of this planet is covered in water that isn't being used for anything in particular; that is a tremendous waste.

      • by sznupi ( 719324 )

        It's being used very actively (in fact, the way we use fisheries might be overusing it), and is an integral part of the planetary systems (necessarily destabilized even more, if you really think about it in terms of percentages of surface)

        But it was about something else, how building there might be not the most efficient way to use resources and technology. Even if operation is "carbon negative" (and why only mention carbon?), I suppose the construction won't be.

      • by RsG ( 809189 )

        You might want to rethink that "isn't being used for anything" bit. A hell of a lot of photosynthesis goes on in the topmost layer of the world's oceans. Not to mention the hydrological cycle and the oceans role in thermo-regulation. We don't want to halt or significantly alter any of the above.

        Now, floating cities will not interfere with those processes, for the same reason building cities on land didn't interfere with land based photosynthesis - the amount of space we need to build something large from

        • That was my thought. Why a few floating cities placed strategically where the garbage is collecting to clean it up is probably a good idea, in general this isn't all it's cracked up to be.
    • Japan is lacking for growing space. It's a very cramped country.
      • by sznupi ( 719324 )

        Yeah, I figure that and some amount of xenophobia is what drives such dreams about building new islands.

        There's an easier solution there though...

      • I wonder how the cities will hold up to Chinese fishing boats?
  • Waterworld (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @04:33PM (#34189778) Homepage Journal

    The energy cost of building this seaborne city would be much greater than whatever savings it might obtain, whether built at sea or shipped there from a land base. How about the energy costs of moving people between this city and anyplace else, from which it would be remote?

    Building on land isn't less energy efficient, it's more efficient. There's plenty of land near enough to oceans to take advantage of the ocean energy, without the higher costs of operating everything on the ocean. Any merit to these principles would be better applied to building a city on an island rather than a floating city from scratch.

    This project is an obvious waste of time, money and energy. I smell a government grant sucked up by bankers and their grad student patsies.

    • by Muros ( 1167213 )
      I dont think it would be viable to build LOTS of these, but I can see some excellent uses that can be made of cities like this. One large problem with modern ocean transport is that it is very noisy underwater; it plays havoc with marine life echo-location and navigation. One way to solve this would be the construction of extremely large bulk carriers for non-perishable goods, that are wind and wave propelled (these are viable but slow; i'm thinking along the lines of raw materials transport; metals, chemic
    • by lwsimon ( 724555 )

      Well, it's apparent that that's the case, but there are always things we might not have thought of.

      Could it be possible for the city to provide some or all of its energy from wave-motion generators?

    • But, if you want to live near water where you can truly enjoy year around solar power, air and water temperature, low pollution, and be safe. Seams like the best place is around the Equator for the first 3. Spin a globe looking near the equator for land, ruling out relatively unstable places like Kenya, the Congo, Columbia, any unsafe for white people areas in Singapore (ok maybe that is just for me). Also no land locked places, or protected indigenous population like new Guiana, and already over populat

      • There's thousands of islands near the Equator, especially in the Pacific and Indian oceans, especially if "near" includes places as far as Singapore. I doubt anyone showing up with what it takes to build a city would be in any kind of danger on any of these islands. Especially once they'd built the city.

        Until a typhoon, tsunami or drought come through. In the longer term, sealevel rise and larger storms are pretty serious.

        Building an energy platform at sea as part of a global energy transmission infrastruct

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      What happened to doing things because they're cool. Sure it doesn't make sense now, but imagination is a powerful thing, and what about building the world's tallest building? There's no point to have a 150 story building, but we learned alot in doing so and we have something cool to look at. Who cares if it's pie-in-the-sky, great engineering projects would always seem silly. What do you think the people thought when Stonehenge was first being planned?
  • I live in Atlanta. I don't want to turn into a mermaid.
    • I live in Atlanta. I don't want to turn into a mermaid.

      Woah! A female on /. ?! I'm baffled and stunned. I'm sure the future mermen of /. would be happy to keep you company in your new mermaid state.

  • ... like the islands of San Serriff []?
  • Seasteading (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @04:39PM (#34189876) []

    Idea's been around for a while. The main issue is that it takes some major bucks to get a project like this off the ground so it'll likely remain among the list of intriguing ideas nobody's been able to finance like intercontinental bridges, beanstalks, arcologies, and such.

    • Yeah, sounds pretty expensive.. And whenever I read "carbon-negative" I think "Sure. carbon negative. That's going to happen..."

      Then again, it is the Japanese proposing these designs, they're pretty good about stuff like that.
  • Typo in headline (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slinches ( 1540051 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @04:40PM (#34189880)

    it should read "Artists Propose Lily Pad-Like Floating Cities"

    The fractal growth concept is kind of cool though.

  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @04:41PM (#34189910) Homepage
    Link []

  • One word: Septic

    The ocean is not your toilet.
    • Another word: Fertilizer

      Plants need nitrogen.
  • They talk about using magnesium for construction.
    Magnesium and salt water is about as bad as it gets for corrosion problems.
    That thing would be decomposing faster than they could build it.
    • But it would be really, really pretty when it caught fire!
    • Saltwater is tough to build in. The typical building materials, steel, cement, wood and even plastics don't really deal very well with it. You can attach a block of zinc to the hull to keep that to a minimum, but you really do have to pull ships out of the water from time to time to service the hull. And I'm not really sure how they propose to do that on what is essentially a floating man made island.
  • anyone else think that looks like Farpoint?

    Or am I so bored by this meeting that I am making nutty observations?

  • Can you imagine a fleet of Chinese trawlers smashing into such a city because they claim the water it's under? Somali pirates would like to pay a visit as well.
  • I an Engineer, and I propose that supermodels be required by law to date Engineers... that doesn't mean it's going to happen!
  • Or they could just lash a bunch of ships to a super carrier and let it float nearly aimlessly around the Pacific Ocean, picking up and dropping off refugees every time it stops.

  • The green float would "use a number of technologies to make a carbon negative system" and "would also produce zero waste by recycling resources and converting waste into energy". However none of their proposed ideas to accomplish these tasks would be any easier to do on a green float as opposed to on dry land. If it's so easy to build a carbon negative city with zero waste, prove it first on dry will surely be more difficult to do on one of these contraptions where you have so many other technol

  • If your going to propose something impractical why not go big like a Dyson Sphere! []

  • The majority of the inhabitants would live in 1km high “City in the Sky” towers located at the center of the circular cells

    The idea of a futuristic city comprising of isolated skyscrapers in vast expanses of open parkland was a fashionable one for futurists in the 50s and 60s, but it's contrary to everything we know about how humans like to live. We like our streets at ground level, our cafes to sit outside, and so on. It's nice to be able to walk to places rather than being forced to drive everywhere because nothing is built anywhere near anything else. If you have to get from one of these towers to another then you have a

  • In other words, they want to build the fabled city of Atlantis.

    Except without
    - the ability to safely sink below the ocean and rise up again at will. For example, to submerge beneath passing tropical storms.
    - the ability to travel the seven seas to travel and explore [ok, my idea, not part of the fable, unless you consider below]
    - the ability to take off and fly between star systems and/or galaxies [the Stargate variety]

    Of course, should tragedy strike and it really does sink (assuming its not designed to d

  • by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @06:19PM (#34190916) Journal

    How about figuring out a way to gather up the trash in the pacific and to aggregate it into a floating island?

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"