FEATURE | Floating, flood-proof city that can house 12,000 people to be built off Busan, South Korea

Photo: Bjarke Ingels Group
Photo: Bjarke Ingels Group

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the Busan Metropolitan City of the Republic of Korea, and New York-based technology company OCEANIX recently unveiled the design of what UN-Habitat claims is the world's first prototype sustainable floating city.

The OCEANIX Busan floating pontoon city project aims to provide an alternative for coastal cities facing severe land shortages that are compounded by a number of threats. As the project partners believe that a large percentage of the world's population resides within 100 kilometres of the coast and that many of the largest cities are becoming increasingly vulnerable to rising sea levels, the floating city will be designed to be capable of adjusting to increases in those water levels.

OCEANIX led a global team of designers, engineers, and sustainability experts in designing the flood-proof prototype. Copenhagen-based the Bjarke Ingels Group and SAMOO (Samsung Group) were the lead architects of OCEANIX Busan. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, said the Busan floating city is a climate adaptation strategy meant to enable human populations to learn to live with the reality of rising sea levels instead of devising ways of preventing it.

A large, multi-use space

<em>Photo: UN-Habitat</em>
Photo: UN-Habitat

Known mainly for being South Korea's second largest city, Busan was chosen as the site for the new floating city partly for its deep harbour and gentle tides – attributes that have allowed it to become a viable container handling port.

The project partners expect OCEANIX Busan to be the world's first prototype of a resilient and sustainable floating community. The interconnected modular maritime neighborhoods total 6.3 hectares to accommodate a community of 12,000 people, and each neighbourhood will be designed to serve a specific purpose. There will be between 30,000 and 40,000 square metres of mixed-use programs per neighborhood.

The floating hexagonal platforms will be anchored to the seabed and will connect to the South Korean mainland with link-span bridges framing the sheltered blue lagoon of floating recreation, art, and performance outposts. The low-rise buildings on each platform will feature terraces for indoor-outdoor living.

Self-sustaining city with future expansion prospects

The floating platforms will be accompanied by dozens of productive outposts with photovoltaic panels and greenhouses that can expand and contract over time based on the needs of the city. Even with the planned continued expansion, all buildings within the city will be limited to seven stories each to keep their centres of gravity as low as possible in anticipation of strong winds and rough seas.

<em>Photo: UN-Habitat</em>
Photo: UN-Habitat

OCEANIX Busan will have six integrated systems: zero waste and circular systems, closed loop water systems (such as those for harvesting rainwater and desalinating seawater), food, net zero energy, innovative mobility, and coastal habitat regeneration. These interconnected systems will generate 100 per cent of the required operational energy on site through floating and rooftop photovoltaic panels. Similarly, each neighbourhood will treat and replenish its own water, reduce and recycle resources, and provide innovative urban agriculture. Agriculture spaces will be concentrated on the city's outer perimeter islands, which will be uninhabited as they will also serve as a buffer against high waves.

The concept design for OCEANIX Busan was unveiled in April 2019 while additional upgraded designs were presented this year. The project's proponents expect construction to be completed in 2025.

The entire city is designed to be capable of adapting over time. UN-Habitat said that, starting from a community of three platforms with 12,000 residents and visitors, the city has the potential to expand to more than 20 platforms. The project partners expect that the expanded space will be able to house a maximum of 100,000 people at any given time.

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