NEW YORK - Coastal cities and communities around the world are struggling to cope with rapid population growth, limited space, erosion, and rising waters.
Marc Collins Chen, the CEO and co-founder of Oceanix says, "There is a sense of crisis."
Chen and his company, Oceanix, have come up with a new type of floating city. The futuristic idea was depicted in the 1995 movie Waterworld. The movie was doom and gloom, but Chen's brainchild is hopeful.
"We very strongly believe that for most coastal cities this option will be considerably cheaper and better for the environment."
Modular neighborhoods would be built on land and then towed into the water, connected together, and anchored with a reef built with a material called biorock to prevent the floating cities from drifting out to sea.
"It's a material that actually grows in seawater like concrete. it's harder actually than concrete."
The moorings would also attract sea life-generating and protecting the marine ecosystem.
They would be close to shore using drones, ferries, and catamarans for transportation to land and bicycles, scooters and boats to move around the modular neighborhoods.
Chen says, "To be clear. We're not in the middle of the ocean. We're very close to major cities. So you need to think of these as satellites or extensions of existing cities."
Chen is working with experts in agriculture, water, energy, architecture and a host of other fields.
At first, the communities would consist of up to 300 residents living and working on about 5 and a half acres in six buildings.
Eventually, that would grow into a city of 10 thousand people.
The buildings would be kept at below 7 stories to create a low center of gravity and resist wind and the floating city would be completely self-sustaining with solar and other renewable energy.
Chen says no matter how much the water rises, the floating cities are safe and would also survive mega-storms like Superstorm Sandy.
"It doesn't matter how much it rains. It doesn't matter how much the water comes up, this part will stay stable." "They cannot be flooded."
Do you think it sounds like a crazy idea?
Well, the United Nations doesn't. Chen, along with engineers and scientists, met with U.N. representatives in New York in April to work together on developing self-sustaining floating cities.
MIT Professor Nicholas Makris attended the United Nations roundtable. He is the director of MIT's Center for Ocean Engineering.
Makris says, "I think it's completely feasible. It's doable."
There are all other kinds of structures that float that are basically city-sized already. You've got cruise ships. You've got aircraft carriers. These are like floating cities.
In some sense, the technology is already there. It's just tweaking it a little bit to turn it into something that's an urban environment.
Chen says, "It's a piece of the tool kit for cities to address this."
Professor Makris adds, "I think it's great because it's giving people something to dream about. It's hope for the future."