February 5, 2009 Think "oil rig" and what comes to mind? Deafening noise, pounding seas, people covered in black muck and ugly metal structures? Perhaps even explosions and Red Adair, but it’s unlikely "luxury resort" popped into your head. However, thousands of decommissioned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico could in future be given a new lease of life as exclusive, self-sufficient eco-resorts for those looking for a new holiday experience.
Morris Architects program to turn a disused rig into a high-end resort experience won them the $10,000 Grand Prize in the Radical Innovation in Hospitality awards.
Around 4,000 oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico will be decommissioned within the next century. Given that an average deck on one of these rigs is about 20,000 square feet, that’s potentially 80 million square feet of usable space just off the coast of the United States.
Rig resorts could become America’s answer to destinations like Dubai (but, we hope, without as much bling). They could also appeal to conference organizers and businesses looking for an unusual venue, and be used as a port of call by cruise ships en route to other destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.
Despite environmental damage, rigs do provide a home to an abundance of marine life: A report by the Minerals Management Service (MMS) found that fish densities are 20 to 50 times higher near offshore platforms than in nearby open water.
The Rig Resort takes the recycling a step further by providing a commercial – and environmentally friendly – use for some of the rig infrastructure.
“As the adaptive reuse of an abandoned oil rig the Rig Resort offers a potentially commercially viable solution to an environmental hazard by providing alternative adventure travel opportunities based on a natural setting, simultaneously creating new jobs previously non-existent in the area,” said John Hardy, president and CEO of the John Hardy Group and co-sponsor of the design competition.
“The big idea is that an icon of non-renewable energy will be powered by totally clean and renewable power,” said Douglas Oliver, Director of Design at Morris Architects.
Wind turbines would be mounted to existing platforms, saving the cost of building new towers, and wave energy generators would be installed either as fixed units in shallower waters or as buoys in deeper waters: the vertical movement of waves would power turbines and create electricity. For heating and cooling, land-based geothermal systems could be modified to work at sea, taking advantage of constant temperatures at lower sea levels. Solar panels would also be used.
The Rig Resort features a core of water that acts as ballast for stability during rough weather. And according to Douglas Oliver, “The gulf of Mexico is not as subject to large non-storm swells as the Atlantic or Pacific. It really takes a tropical storm or hurricane to kick things up and of course you would evacuate everybody to shore well in advance of such an event.”
He says the experience of being on the Rig Resort "would not be substantially different than cruise ships where it usually takes a day or so to get your sea legs.”
Other amenities include a grand ballroom for weddings and events, state-of-the-art fitness center and spa, luxury shopping, nightly entertainment, gaming casino, a stargazer lounge and exquisite dining including a catch-it/grill-it gourmet service.
Space is at a premium so a sofa used by day expands into a bed at night, sliding into place over the hot tub so you can watch the evening performances taking place in the deep-water pool. A viewing "port" can be extended from each room to take in ocean life - and retracted if the weather turns bad.
If you’re itching to book your next holiday on the Rig Resort you’re in for a bit of a wait. While Douglas Oliver says the Hardy group has researched the feasibility of the project and has been positive about it, we’ll have to wait for the global economy to pick up before we see it become a reality.
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