Saturday, April 04, 2009
Buckminster Fuller designed this tetrahedronal floating city for Tokyo bay in the 1960's. He wrote:
"Three-quarters of our planet Earth is covered with water, most of which may float organic cities...Floating cities pay no rent to landlords. They are situated on the water, which they desalinate and recirculate in many useful and nonpolluting ways. They are ships with all an ocean ship's technical autonomy, but they are also ships that will always be anchored. They don't have to go anywhere. Their shape and its human-life accommodations are not compromised, as must be the shape of the living quarters of ships whose hull shapes are constructed so that they may slip, fishlike, at high speed through the water and high seas with maximum economy...Floating cities are designed with the most buoyantly stable conformation of deep-sea bell-buoys. Their omni-surface-terraced, slop-faced, tetrahedronal structuring is employed to avoid the lethal threat of precipitous falls by humans from vertically sheer high-rising buildings...The tetrahedron has the most surface with the least volume of all polyhedra. As such, it provides the most possible 'outside' living. Its sloping external surface is adequate for all its occupants to enjoy their own private, outside, tiered-terracing, garden homes. These are most economically serviced from the common, omni-nearest-possible center of volume of all polyhedra...When suitable, the floating cities are equipped with 'alongside' or interiorly lagooned marinas for the safe mooring of the sail- and powerboats of the floating-city occupants. When moored in protected waters, the floating cities may be connected to the land by bridgeways.
In 1966 my Japanese patron died, and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development commissioned me to carry out full design and economic analysis of the floating tetrahedronal city for potential U.S.A use. With my associates I completed the design and study as well as a scaled-down model. The studies showed that the fabricating and operating costs were such that a floating city could sustain a high standard of living, yet be economically occupiable at a rental so low as to be just above that rated as the 'poverty' level by HUD authorities. The secretary of HUD sent the drawings, engineering studies, and economic analysis to the Secretary of the Navy, who ordered the Navy's Bureau of Ships to analyze the project for its 'water-worthiness.' stability, and organic capability. The Bureau of Ships verified all our calculations and found the design to be practical and 'water-worthy.' The Secretary of the Navy then sent the project to the US Navy's Bureau of Yards and Docks, where its fabrication and assembly procedures and cost were analyzed on a basis of the 'floating city' being built in a shipyard as are aircraft carriers and other vessels. The cost analysis of the Navy Department came out within 10 percent of our cost - which bore out its occupiability at rental just above the poverty class. ``At this point the city of Baltimore became interested in acquiring the first such floating city for anchorage just offshore in Chesapeake Bay, adjacent to Baltimore's waterfront. At this time President Lyndon Johnson's Democratic party went out of power. President Johnson took the model with him and installed it in his LBJ Texas library. The city of Baltimore's politicians went out of favor with the Nixon administration, and the whole project languished."
The technical considerations indicate that such a structure is possible. The basic unit of Triton City is a neighborhood-sized community which will accommodate 3500 to 6000 people and which will support an elementary school, a small supermarket and local convenience stores and services. Three to six of these neighborhoods will form a town which will include a high school, more recreational and civic facilities and possibly light industry. When a community reaches the level of three to seven towns (90,000 to 105,000 population) it becomes a full-scale city with more specialized industry and a city center module to accommodate government offices and medical facilities. The high density occupation results in great economies in transportation service and other utilities.
Well if it was technologically feasible in the 1960s it certainly is now. Equally the cost of housing is even more a function of regulation than it was then. So if it was financially viable then it certainly is now. I haven't seen costings of this & I suspect no up to date ones exist but assuming construction costs of £100,000 per family (which if anything i suspect would be on the high side now) and about 2.500 families we have a cost of about £250 million. To run this as a deep sea seastead would probably cause some redesign but in fact shorelines are more dangerous to shipping than deep sea, both because it gives them something to hit & because waves are much higher on shores. Moreover seas on the equator are particularly calm ("the doldrums").
A Seastead based on a Triton unit powered by an OTEC & using the deep sea water to grow algael oil, as I have previously discussed, could probably be done for about £500 million. You can't make a smaller OTEC because the energy used to pull up water depends on the diameter of the tube & thus below a certain size it uses as much power as it produces. Thus this seems to be a minimum cost. This explains why it hasn't yet been done. £500 million is a lot for any business to risk, though relatively little for a government. " possible 1st steps would be:
1 - An OTEC based on an old ship, which would otherwise be scrapped, used to create algael oil.
2 - A Triton City design used as Buckminster Fuller originally conceived, to provide housing. There are many cities where land is in short supply, such as Singapore or Shanghai where this could be done. Abu Dhabi, where land is in short supply & money isn't has already contracted to do so, though on a somewhat smaller scale.
Sww also http://www.seasteading.org/seastead.org/commented/paper/review.html#TritonCity
"We find that a tetrahedronal city, to house a million people, is both technologically and economically feasible. Such a vertical-tetrahedronal-city can be constructed with all of its three hundred thousand families each having balconied "outside" apartments of two thousand square feet of floor space. All of the machinery necessary to its operation will be housed inside the tetrahedron. It is found that such a one million passenger tetrahedronal city is structurally efficient, and therefore so relatively light, that together with its hollow-box, sectioned, reinforced concrete foundations it can float. Such tetrahedronal floating cities would measure two miles to an edge, and can be floated in a triangularly patterned canal. This will make the whole structure earthquake proof. The whole city can be floated out into the ocean to any point and anchored. The depth of its foundations will go below the turbulence level of the seas so that the floating tetrahedronal island will be, in effect, a floating triangular atol. Its two-mile long "boat" foundations will constitute landing strips for jet airplanes. Its interior two-mile harbor will provide refuge for the largest and smallest ocean vessels. The total structural and mechanical materials involved in production of a number of such cities are within feasibility magnitude of already operating metals manufacturing capabilities of any one company of several major industrial nations around the earth. The tetrahedronal city may start with a thousand occupants and grow symmetrically to hold millions without changing overall shape - though always providing each family with 2000 square feet of floor space. Withdrawal of materials from obsolete buildings on the land will permit the production of enough of these floating cities to support frequently spaced floating cities of various sizes around the oceans of the earth. This will permit mid-ocean cargo tranferring and therewith an extraordinary increase of efficiency of the inter-distribution of the world's raw and finished products as well as of the passenger traffic. Three quarters of the earth is covered by water. Man is clearly intent on penetrating those world-around ocean waters in every way to work both their ocean bottom and their marine life and chemistry resources. Such ocean passage shortening habitats of every-transient humanity will permit his individual flying, sailing, economic stepping stone travel around the whole earth in many directions."
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