Our cost estimates are within the right ballpark!

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As I mentioned in the OTC trip report, there is a huge amount of uncertainty in our cost estimates, because we aren’t sure how the expense of a seastead will compare to that of an oil platform.  Since we believe that the success of seasteading hinges on whether it can be done at a reasonable price, this will be one of our key areas of research this year.  Here is some evidence that Andy House’s initial ballpark estimate of about $300/ft^2 for his Baystead and Seastead Lite designs is not unreasonable:

The Atlantis Garrison: A Comprehensive, Cost Effective Cargo and Port Security Strategy

Strategic Insights, Volume IV, Issue 4 (April 2005)

This essay proposes a solution to U.S. cargo and port inspection and security problems through the construction and use of offshore ports to screen, inspect, and transfer cargo for delivery inside the United States. Such a system would use offshore platform technologies, called pneumatically stabilized platforms, to provide large acreage ports that would be more cost effective to maintain and more efficient to screen inbound ships and inspect and transfer cargo than alternatives—such as overhauling the current ports systems at home and abroad. Offshore ports are proposed as a critical link into a port and cargo security defense-in-depth system involving a cargo security information system, offshore ports, and the current ports system.

Recent offshore platform construction estimates have been competitive with waterfront land values. Each platform’s costs are ultimately determined by its intended sea state environment, the proximity of the port to the construction site, and the variable costs of materials and labor. Higher cost platforms include a full array of intermodal operations, such as a tunnel and airfield for truck, rail, and air operations.

For the purposes of this essay, costs will be estimated for a hypothetical high end platform—on par with a 95-acre, 100-year typhoon-resistant, Asian transfer port that includes platform, anchoring, and top side systems, complete with its own power and water generation systems, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, fire suppression, insurance, front end engineering and development, and operational buildings. The rough order of magnitude in this example is $337 per square foot, or $14.7 million per acre.

Besides the cost estimate being a good data point, this is a business idea worth investigating.  Since they specifically mention pneumatically stabilized platforms, they’re presumably using the technology from Float, Inc., which we also plan to investigate.

5 comments

  1. Jesrad 9:49 am

    Housing customs agents and leasing open sea acreage for their operations could indeed be one more profitable venture for seasteads – even though the agorist in me cringes at the thought. This would be similar to what Nauru does with Australia (harboring immigration candidates until they pass the checks, in exchange for financial help with their public debt). And, with time, the idea of seasteads as international free zone, like with airports and their duty-free zones, could be more easily imposed.

  2. iWantToLiveFree 11:51 am

    As I understand it, a PSP based design would:

    • lower the building costs
    • provide for an easy way to generate power (without sacrificing solar area).
    • allow for a more traditional city layout
    • make it much easier to design docking and air transportation facilities
    • minimize common infrastructure on the seastead
    • make it easier to build additions to existing designs
    • and consequently make it easier to start small and grow

    However it is:

    • largely untested, especially in an open ocean environment
    • uncertain whether it would survive freak waves and storms
    • theorized that the bigger the platform the better its survivability, making small platforms unworkable on the high seas, which would require seasteaders to live in protected waters until the platform is big enough to be towed away to its final destination
    • not going to solve the anchorage or active positioning problem, potentially making it worse

    I can’t wait for this technology to be thoroughly investigated by the SSI :) Sounds just too promising to not be taken seriously. On a related note, I wonder what makes conventional platforms so expensive.. I’d love to see a breakdown of costs with no drilling or oil related expenses in it.

  3. Sundiver 5:52 pm

     Under FAQ on the Float, Inc.’s website it says "Further, every PSP is designed for its environment". From my point of view, neither Float nor an engineer can make any progress until presented with specifications. I’m going to continue commenting in the OTC report area.

    “Prosperity is only an instrument to be used, not a deity to be worshiped.”

  4. afpunk 6:36 pm

    Why is this not possible? I am all for this and as soon as I get out of the military and raise money I am in.  I can’t stand the way the US is being run right now. A lot of you see this could turn into them being pirates, anarchist, or even a cult. There are a lot of different types of anarchy, and I am willing to try them why not. The worst thing I could see being done is the US labeling us as Terriost group. The cult thing is retarted a lot of libertarians are agnostic or athiest, I am neither, but for me going to this would have nothing to do with religon in any shape.

    The last thing on my soap box is why do you care if these people or me do this, if you think it is stupid than don’t do it and if you live in the US are you really going to be afraid of an Elite group of commuter genius that could end up hacking the whole world I mean come on. lol

  5. AMW 4:16 pm

    Any plans to contact House about the Seasteading Institute?  It seems like your research could be a sort of proof-of-concept for his ideas.  Maybe he could broaden the base of support/interest/research?

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