Architecture

Artificial floating islands could expand liveable space at sea

Artificial floating islands co...
The Maritime Research Institute Netherlands is testing a floating mega island that may one day expand the liveable space offshore
The Maritime Research Institute Netherlands is testing a floating mega island that may one day expand the liveable space offshore
View 6 Images
An artist's representation of how the final floating island might look
1/6
An artist's representation of how the final floating island might look
The Maritime Research Institute Netherlands is testing a floating mega island that may one day expand the liveable space offshore
2/6
The Maritime Research Institute Netherlands is testing a floating mega island that may one day expand the liveable space offshore
Olaf Waals is the project manager of MARIN's floating islands
3/6
Olaf Waals is the project manager of MARIN's floating islands
MARIN wants to continue studying how viable the floating island concept is, testing its durability in weather and its ecological effects
4/6
MARIN wants to continue studying how viable the floating island concept is, testing its durability in weather and its ecological effects
MARIN's test model of the floating island is made up of 87 interlocking triangles that can be connected modularly
5/6
MARIN's test model of the floating island is made up of 87 interlocking triangles that can be connected modularly
MARIN's floating island model was tested in the Offshore Basin facility, a 40 x 40 m (130 ft) pool that allows the team to simulate wind, waves and currents
6/6
MARIN's floating island model was tested in the Offshore Basin facility, a 40 x 40 m (130 ft) pool that allows the team to simulate wind, waves and currents
View gallery - 6 images

The Netherlands is a fairly small country, so to support a growing population, the Dutch people have historically expanded out to sea. It's a remarkable feat of engineering how much land they've managed to reclaim by building dikes, but it might not be a sustainable solution nowadays. To update that tradition, the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN) is testing the concept of an artificial floating island.

MARIN's floating island is made up of large triangles that connect to each other in a modular fashion. Structurally, it works like the Italian Floating Piers and walkways we saw last year, but on a much bigger scale: MARIN says that floating islands built in this way could be as big as 5 km (3.1 miles) wide, and used for a variety of purposes.

"As sea level rises, cities become overcrowded and more activities are carried out at sea, raising the dikes and reclaiming land from the seas are perhaps no longer an effective solution," says Olaf Waals, project manager of MARIN's floating islands. "An innovative alternative that fits with the Dutch maritime tradition is floating ports and cities."

An artist's representation of how the final floating island might look
An artist's representation of how the final floating island might look

These new floating spaces could support offshore homes, public spaces, docks for the loading and unloading of ships, fishing and seaweed-harvesting facilities, and renewable energy systems like wind, solar, tidal or wave energy generators.

But there are still plenty of questions surrounding the project's viability. The MARIN team is investigating the best ways to lock the triangles together and anchor the island to the seabed. Whether the undulations of the water will be too disruptive to the structures or people onboard, and how to minimize the environmental effects of the new islands are other issues that need to be addressed.

To answer these questions, MARIN is running computer simulations and testing the idea with a scale model island made up of 87 triangles, in a facility it calls the Offshore Basin. This 40 x 40 m (131 x 131 ft) pool allows the team to simulate wind, waves and currents, and study how the island would handle these conditions in the real world.

The team's tests, as well as computer images of what the end result might look like, can be seen in the videos below.

Source: MARIN

MARIN Floating Island Artist impression

MARIN Floating Island - Model installation and testing PROMO

View gallery - 6 images
6 comments
David
Interesting motion in the video. Perhaps the team will conclude that the floating island will work better if it's encircled by a separate floating breakwater.
aki009
I wonder if the Dutch will bother to provide a hat tip to Ronald Hamilton and his "Rolling Dynamic Buoyancy" that is after all the very basis of their island. Speaking of Ronald Hamilton, he was yet another brilliant inventor who had the misfortune of living in an era where inventors rarely profited from their inventions.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Maybe this is the beginning of pelagic nations.
Mockingbird
I think deeper hexagons connected by rubber tires might be more durable and stable. And with a similarly constructed break water of the same structures, but with more empty spaces. I visualize the way kelp beds calm waves.
giampaolo
Possible to use them to do tidal energy.
chase
Water world in the making?
I don't see triangles as the key, though i get they're scaled down. Though i could be wrong, in my opinion, that's working against nature for this application. Water smooths. Curves. Flows.. triangles are abrupt. Imply cutting. Fracture points. Etc. If it were moving through.. ic could see it. As a stationary flexible platform on water... I don't know.