A fresh start on a floating city could be just a few years away
For five years, The Seasteading Institute has been conducting research into the potential for permanent, innovative communities – floating at sea. We are now able to apply this foundation of knowledge and our network towards an actual design, along with additional efforts to determine specific needs and desires of potential customers, and to select a practical location for what could become the world’s first city at sea.
The Floating City Project combines principles of both seasteading and startup cities, by seeking to locate a floating city within the territorial waters of an existing nation. Historically, The Seasteading Institute has looked to international waters for the freedom to establish new nations and spur competitive governance from the outside. However, there are several reasons we are now seeking a host nation: a) It is less expensive to engineer a seastead for relatively calm, shallow waters compared with the open ocean outside of territorial waters; b) it will be easier for residents to travel to and from the seastead, as well as to acquire goods and services from existing supply chains; and c) a host nation will provide a place for a floating city within the existing international legal framework, with the associated protections and responsibilities.
- Floating City Project Phase I (COMPLETE) – Our detailed report (see below) demonstrates the feasibility – from market demand to safety and to construction costs – of a floating city.
- Crowdfunding a floating city design (COMPLETE)- We have partnered with Dutch aquatic urban design firm, DeltaSync, to engineer a novel architectural seastead design, and successfully crowdfunded over $27,000 for this component. The report and calculation model are available for download below.
- Surveying potential customers at floating-city.org (ONGOING) – We are continuing to gather data from potential floating city residents and business owners using a survey housed at floating-city.org. This survey measures the preferences and demands of future pioneers – including full- and part-time residents as well as time-share holders. Please take a minute to participate in this stage and fill out the brief survey.
- Exploring floating city designs (COMPLETE) – We investigated both the DeltaSync design and a semi-submersible alternative (view research here), and determined that DeltaSync’s concept is better adapted for the strategy of the Floating City Project, which encourages early seasteads to form within protected waters. In the future it will be important to do additional research on various components of DeltaSync’s design.
- Honing the location – Our geopolitical and oceanographic experts investigated practical locations for a free city at sea. Our in-house team is now actively engaged in diplomacy with host nations, making the case that hosting an autonomous seastead city in their territorial waters would produce significant economic, social, and environmental benefits for their citizens. Our work was partially based off of our existing location study published in November of 2011.
The first floating city with significant political autonomy may be established by 2020. The key findings of Floating City Project report are:
1. a market for a residential seastead exists,
2. a practical design can be built to match the market’s price point, and
3. it is likely that the Seasteading Institute can reach a deal with a host nation willing to grant a floating city substantial political independence.
- We have concluded that it would be possible to station a floating city in the calm territorial waters of a host nation in order to reduce the costs of the structure compared to constructing for the open ocean. A coastal nation may be interested in offering to host a floating community in their territorial waters and allow substantial political independence in exchange for economic, social, and environmental benefits. At the time of publication of this report, we are engaged in high level talks with a potential host nation, and entry level talks with others. We will provide more information about these processes when we are able to make the information public.
- Potential residents from 67 countries and many income levels provided extensive feedback on what they desire from a floating city with political autonomy, and their requests are remarkably consistent. The market demand for the first floating city with some level of political independence is vigorous and growing.
DeltaSync completed their preliminary concept in December 2013. In their vision, the city is composed of modular platforms – either 50 x 50 meter squares, or pentagons with 50 meter sides. Squares and pentagons can be connected and arranged in numerous branch like structures. Squares are estimated to cost approximately $15 million each. This is equivalent $393 per square foot of gross space. But since 20% of each platform is reserved for open/green space, the report projects issuable space to cost $504 per square foot ($5425/square meter). Reinforced concrete was chosen as the construction material of choice for its price and durability. Concrete structures would be molded into sturdy hollow boxes, or “caissons”. Modules would support three story buildings. The design takes into account apartments, terraced housing, office space, and hotels. This concept is based on 11 modules, which could host 225-300 full-time residents when combined, with an additional 50 hotel beds. The total projected cost would therefore be approximately $167 million.
The Gulf of Fonseca, bordering three Central American nations, was chosen as a test case for the suitability of the design for protected, territorial waters – this location selected was based loosely on the criteria we used for selecting host nations, such as proximity to cities and existing infrastructure, and location within an attractive climate, outside the path of hurricanes. However, site selection for this study should not be interpreted as suggesting that we have an agreement to develop a floating city in the Gulf of Fonseca. In a location like this, DeltaSync reports that the platforms could be completely solar-powered, and that this would in fact be more cost-effective than diesel generation, even including the costs of battery storage and distribution via micro-grid.
- This concept also assesses a scalable method of financing a breakwater, which could eventually surround the city and allow it to move out to the open ocean. Mobility of the individual modules is key from the perspective of guaranteeing autonomy for the city – in the event that the relationship with a particular host nation no longer suits either party, the platforms could detach from their moorings and float to a different location. Modularity and mobility also enable dynamic geography and empower citizens of the city to rearrange into more desirable configurations as the population grows and evolves.
- While more in-depth engineering research is required, the preliminary analysis suggests that concrete platforms in the 50 x 50 meter dimensions strike the best balance between cost, movability, and stability in the waves of the representative region. Future research includes verifying the findings in DeltaSync’s report and honing the assumptions off of which the design is based.
We closed 2014 by taking a delegation of architects and engineers to an undisclosed location where we hope to locate the first floating city in the sea nearby. We believe there could be a market on our floating city for residences, tourism, aquaculture, a business park, a research institute, and a powerplant to sell energy and clean water back to the host nation.
If we create jobs for local residents, government officials indicated a willingness to allow us substantial political autonomy. We are in the process of drafting a legal agreement to present to the host nation, which would be overseen by a third-party arbitrator. Assuming we close an agreement securing some autonomy, we will reveal the location and host a conference there to invite investors, potential residents and developers to survey the lucrative opportunities.
To learn more details about our progress on Phase II, please read a report the Fact-finding & Diplomatic Floating City Project Mission by our Executive Director Randolph Hencken.
In the mean time, we are advancing on all four aspects of Phase II in consultation with experts. These include:
1. enhancing our novel seastead designs, which includes wave tank testing and acquiring more detailed financial calculations;
2. deepening our diplomatic negotiations with several potential host nations;
3. collecting potential resident feedback;
4. prospecting investors.
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Recruiting Partners & Volunteers
We are seeking experienced persons in any fields relevant to seasteading as partners and/or volunteers for the Floating City Project. We are especially seeking individuals with a background in real estate development, geopolitics, diplomacy and marketing.
Qualified applicants should email their a resume or description of any relevant experience to firstname.lastname@example.org.