Brussels, 10 Mar 2003
Land shortages and the growing risk of floods have led the Dutch to float the idea of building waterborne homes, businesses, roads and, maybe one day, entire cities.
How the combination of architecture and water can stimulate creative processes and new insights.
The Dutch government is building the country's first floating road in the middle of a tributary to the river Meuse. Work on the project is due to conclude in June this year. If the experimental stretch of road is successful, officials say the idea may be applied nationwide.
A Dutch firm has already completed a number of prototype floating homes in Amsterdam and it plans to construct between 50 and 200 more per year. Finding customers should not be a problem as demand for the novel concept is booming. The company says they have a waiting list of over 5 000 people for their houses, which will cost between €165 000 and €450 000.
The road and houses employ similar technology. They are constructed on concrete pontoons encasing giant lumps of polystyrene reinforced with steel. They are then placed into the water and manoeuvred into place by tugboats. The pontoons are anchored by underwater cables, which makes them harder to sink.
Although the floating homes are currently more of a lifestyle statement than anything else, more and more people in The Netherlands are seeing them as a feasible solution to the country's land shortage.
Dam good idea!
Holland is the world's third most densely populated country. With half of the European state sitting precariously below sea level and a third of its landmass covered in water, the Dutch are famed for finding innovative solutions to their demographic quagmire. In the past, they kept their heads above water through massive land reclamation projects and the construction of a complex network of dykes.
Concerns over global warming, rising sea levels and more frequent flooding have prompted the Dutch to re-examine, in recent years, the long-term sustainability of these traditional solutions. The Transport, Public Works and Water Management Ministry cautioned, in a policy paper, that The Netherlands needed a radical rethink of the way it kept the sea at bay.
Floating homes and roads are being heralded by some as a way of putting its most abundant resource – water – to better use. Planners are exploring other applications for the new technology as well. They have come up with designs for floating greenhouses that use the water beneath to irrigate the plants and control the temperature inside.
In the wake of last year's floods across Europe and evidence of over-construction on flood plains, it may prompt other European countries to follow the Dutch example.
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