Saturday, Jul 02, 2022

A Look At OCEANIX Busan, The World's First Prototype Of A Floating, Sustainable City

The plans for this innovative city of the future were finally unveiled before the United Nations on April 26, 2022

The Busan skyline
The Busan skyline Shutterstock

Imagine a future where cities no longer run on coal or other fossil fuels or other polluting, conventional forms of energy. Envision an era when you no longer have to wake up in the midst of choking fumes or take in smoggy views of the skyline and cityscape or bear the severe brunt of successive climate crises. 

Baby steps have been taken to make that future a bit more real. Busan is the second-populous city in South Korea, after the country’s capital, Seoul, made famous by the cult horror film, Train to Busan. It now plans to be the world’s first prototype of a sustainable, floatable city, driven by the need to provide solutions to coastal areas threatened by climate crisis and rising sea levels. 

OCEANIX, a New York-based sustainable design firm, is designing and building the city’s prototype. The first concept for such a city was floated during a UN roundtable in April 2019. And now, for the first time on April 26, 2022, plans were unveiled for Busan’s floating city at the UN headquarters.

The centrepiece of the planned city will be the three interconnected floating platforms made of a material called Biorock, a material that’s “buoyant and harder than concrete”, according to NBC. OCEANIX says Biorock is a form of limestone that “grows, heals itself and becomes stronger with age”. The floating platforms will consist of ‘neighbourhoods’—one platform will be a lodging area for visitors that will provide maximum waterfront views, a second platform will be a living area with residential buildings and public spaces and a third platform will be a research facility, a "temperature-controlled central atrium in a forest of hydroponic towers" which will feature a winter garden.

OCEANIX will be assisted by the UN-Habitat, the United Nations agency for human settlements, in its efforts. OCEANIX Busan will initially be a self-sustaining community of around 12,000 residents and visitors that will meet its own energy and food demands. The operational energy for this city measuring 6.3 hectares will be generated by floating and rooftop photovoltaic cells, while the food for each neighbourhood (measuring 30,000 to 40,000 square metres) will be produced by individual urban agricultural productions. What about waste disposal? Six interconnected systems provide solutions to this: zero waste and circular systems, closed loop water systems, food, net zero energy, innovative mobility, and coastal habitat regeneration. The zero waste energy system will generate energy, agricultural feedstock and recycled materials, while the other systems will contribute to the creation of a self-sustaining ecosystem in each neighbourhood.

OCEANIX Busan, which is scheduled to be constructed by 2025, also hopes to be a model for coastal cities threatened by rising sea levels. To that effect, the city will have low-rise buildings resistant to flooding and ferocious winds for 100 years. And, if successful, the Busan template can be a lifesaver for several populations around the world. Just to put things in perspective, every two out of five persons reside within a 100-km radius of the coast, while 90 per cent of large cities worldwide are susceptible to rising sea levels. Furthermore, to prevent and control pollution levels, there will be no other forms of transportation other than walking and cycling.

Is there scope for OCEANIX Busan to evolve into a destination for sustainable tourism? Surely yes, if one is to go by the number of people the city can accommodate. The floating city can accommodate a maximum of around 1,00,000 people on as many as 20 platforms fitted with greenhouses and photovoltaic cells which can contract and expand depending on the needs of the people.