The Future is Now: Floating Buildings May Be Coming to a Body of Water Near You

Over the last century, sea levels have continued to rise at an increasing rate with no sign of slowing down. Since 1993, the continuous warming of the Earth has resulted in sea levels that have risen at a rate of over one-eighth of an inch per year, due to melting glaciers and ice sheets, and thermal expansion.

Sea level in 2016 compared to the 1993-2016 average. NOAA map, adapted from Figure 3.16a in State of the Climate in 2016.

This may not sound like much, but according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 2016, the global sea level was 3.2 inches above the 1993 average.

With the rising sea levels, a multitude of hazards from storm surges has contributed to massive, intermittent flooding, and shoreline and coastline erosion.

When you consider that nearly 40% of the U.S. population resides in densely populated coastal areas, this news does not provide the most favorable outlook for these residents. Moreover, here in California, there are coastal cities that run along the entire west coast of the state from the most northern region in Humboldt County, to the most southern region in San Diego County.

Image Credit: Web Urbanist

Builders and urban planners are exploring new and innovative adaptation strategies for structures, over and beyond erecting homes and buildings on stilts or constructing taller and stronger storm walls.

There is a novel idea on the horizon that has been around for a few decades which hopes to serve as a solution to make these building structures able to adjust to rising waters – floating or amphibious architecture.

When water is not present, these structures would rest on solid ground but could float on water if necessary. They would look like an ordinary home or building with the key difference being their foundation, which would function like a raft when exposed to water, possibly lessening, or even eliminating the destruction of life, property, and the displacement of residents. Essentially, making these vulnerable coastal communities more resilient and able to withstand waterborne catastrophes.

Currently, projects range from simple retrofits for single family homes in flood zones to the construction of floating neighborhoods and potentially floating cities.

Image Source: Seasteading Institute

A floating city may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie but the idea is real. Presently, a San Francisco based nonprofit is leading the way and working on the development of the world’s first floating city prototype in French Polynesia–which is slated to be completed in the year 2020.

If you are interested in learning more about floating or amphibious architecture for your home or property, contact a professional architect licensed through the California Architects Board or a professional contractor licensed through the Contractors State License Board.

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