The concept of a floating island has been with us throughout history, but sprang back into the limelight just four years ago when Wally Yachts came up with an island-themed megayacht named the Wally Island.
The Wally Island was a 99 meter (325 feet) "gigayacht" design that dwarfed the vast majority of luxury megayachts and reconceived the yacht as a floating personal island, a mobile address that can be used as a home, an entertaining space or even a moving exhibition or show space.
At an estimated US$200 million, the Wally Island was not for the common man, but the concept appears to have ignited a flurry of activity in the marine industry, with these new designs all more focused on a comfortable movable living space framed as a floating island more than a boat.
It seems that now the naval architectural mold is broken, and has moved outside traditional areas, newer purpose-built, holistic designs have begun to emerge, most notably the work of work of Wally Yachts, Dutch Docklands Maldives and Italian industrial designer Michele Puzzolante.
"Floating islands are environmentally friendly and leave a zero footprint after its lifespan, and opens opportunities where there is a scarcity of land," Jasper Mulder, General Manager of Dutch Docklands Maldives told Gizmag. "They are the answer to urban limitations and climate change. It secures a safe and sustainable future where conventional building methods fail."
There's also a significant research project developing "amphibian houses" that are designed to float in the event of a flood. The FLOATEC project sees the primary market for the houses as the Netherlands, whose low-lying land makes it particularly susceptible to the effects of rising sea levels. Such housing technology could also allow small island-states in the Indian and Pacific Oceans that are at the risk of disappearing in the next 100 years to maintain their claim to statehood through the use of artificial, floating structures.
Indeed, as we reported last September, Paypal co-founder and billionaire Peter Thiel, is currently being very generous towards the Seasteading Institute which is intending to create floating autonomous states.
The initiative is inspired by the idea of creating cities that are free from political agendas and social construction.
These "floating cities will allow the next generation of pioneers to peacefully test new ideas for government," says the Seasteading Institute. "The most successful can then inspire change in governments around the world."
Floating homes with energy autonomyOne of the many benefits of a floating island is that you begin with a clean sheet, and hence the potential to create an entire infrastructure from scratch leaves itself open to many new technologies being incorporated to achieve synergies well beyond the normal scope - such as Japan’s Shimizu Corporation and its idea that it can construct a self-sufficient, carbon-negative floating city in the Pacific Ocean.
The Solar Floating Resort (SFR) uses dye-sensitized solar cells in the building fabric. The SFR is constructed of two 15-mm (0.6-in) layers of fiberglass reinforced balsa wood with a 30-cm (11.8-in) vacuum between. Puzzolante has solar cells in both the inner and outer layers, so that both artificial light from the interior and sunlight can be harvested. It's an indication of the amount of thought that is now being devoted to the future of marine habitats. By carefully conserving energy supplies, and reharvesting them wherever possible, Puzzolante's Solar Floating Resort offers energy autonomy.
Now an Austrian-based company intends to manufacture much smaller, tailor made miniature floating islands, at a fraction of the cost.
Position, position, positionThe price of waterfront property continues to grow internationally thanks to there being a finite quantity of waterfront and a growing and ever more affluent population seeking it.
"Position, position, position" is the catchcry of the real estate industry everywhere.
The whole point about a floating island is that you can reposition it. It could just as easily be moored somewhere near New York or London, as the Bahamas,
Several times in the last decade there have been ingenious attempts to create "synthetic real estate" in prime positions.
A company called First Penthouse began developing the free space on the rooftops of existing buildings just six years ago, and much value has been created by utilizing perfectly positioned real estate that had never before been ascribed much value.
First Penthouse builds bespoke skyward extensions that perfectly match the character of the existing building and can add an entire floor to your building in 24 hours. If the residents own the building, they can sometimes create significant value.
The free space on top of buildings rarely gets any consideration on a balance sheet, but offers a major opportunity in creating very valuable virgin real estate.
The pre-fabricated Loftcube addressed the same market with a made-to-order cube helicoptered into position, commissioned and fully functional in 24 hours.
Dubai quadrupled its amount of waterfront land to cater for this lack of supply with the clever creation of waterfront property with its ingenious Palm, World and other man-made island projects. More recently, Reef Island in Qatar debuted.
Orsos Island ConceptMore recently, three superyachts took the idea of a floating island as their theme, but the price tag on these behemoths would be beyond US$100 million to put in the water, and at your rule-of-thumb 10% (of the purchase price) per annum in upkeep, a cool US$10 million a year minimum to run.
Orsos Island Concept brings the concept within range of everyone with a lazy five million. At that price, synthetic real estate such as floating islands become financially viable.
Founder Gábor Orsós is aiming to combine the positive aspects of mainland real estate and luxury yachts at much reduced cost, albeit in comparison to superyachts.
The project is Austrian-based, and constructed, with manufacture in Germany and Hungary.
A prototype is underway and will be opened to the public at the end of 2013.
The costs of pimping your island vary dramatically depending on your tastes, but a basic model will coast around EUR 3.6 million (US$4,450,000), an order of magnitude less than previous floating islands, enabling new lifestyle possibilities.
The concept of a floating island is not new, having first surfaced in Homer's Odyssey and making countless appearances in literature from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, C. S. Lewis' science fiction trilogy Perelandra, Hugh Lofting's The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle and the first artificially-constructed floating island makes an appearance in an 1895 novel by the father of science fiction, Frenchman Jules Verne.
Building one has been a different matter and it wasn't until 2008 that we saw a design capable of living up to the concept in Wally Yachts "Floating Island" gigayacht: the Wally Island.
Since 2008, we've seen the rise of Yacht Island Design, a company which specializes in developing floating islands on large mega-yacht bases. Yacht Island Design's “Tropical Island” and "Streets of Monaco" followed with the promise that Yacht Island Design could tailor you an environment like no other, provided you had tens of millions of dollars to spend decking out your $50 million megayacht.
Yacht Island Designs looked set to be the main producer of man-made floating islands for the foreseeable future. It has several other fully developed designs which have not yet been released publicly, including a modern interpretation of a massive Chinese Junk, and an Arabian-themed superyacht.
More recently another ambitious yet seemingly-viable floating island concept has emerged in the form of Project Utopia, a structure with more in common with an oil rig than it does with a yacht. In the word's of the design consultancy which created it, Project Utopia "breaks the traditional naval architectural mold which the market has come to expect and offers a truly unique outlook free from any conventional design constraints."
Designed in conjunction with BMT Nigel Gee, Yacht Island Design's Project Utopia measures some 330 ft (100 m) in length and breadth, spans 11 decks and has the equivalent floorspace of a present-day cruise liner - enough space to create an entire micro-nation.
The idea of a floating city is also not new. In 2010, we saw the designs of Architect Vincent Callebaut's “Lilypad” concept – a completely self-sufficient floating city to accommodate 50,000.
With a shape inspired by the highly ribbed leaf of Victoria water lilies, the double skin of the floating “ecopolis” is to be made of polyester fibers covered by a layer of titanium dioxide (TiO2), which would react with ultraviolet rays and absorb atmospheric pollution via a photocatalytic effect in the same way as the air-purifying concrete and paving stones.
The Orsos Island Concept is at the other end of the floating island scale - at 20 meters wide and 37 meters long, it's a very small island, but more than enough for a sophisticated, high tech layout serving almost every need, and with 1,000 m² of living space.
The Orsós Island concept's founder is Gábor Orsós, an entrepreneur with extensive experience in hospitality and real estate, with the combined knowledge of the two industries leading him to the development of the ORSOS Islands project.
When the project first commenced, Orsós' goal was to create an exclusive, high-quality hotel chain based on floating platforms, but as the project progressed, it was decided to attempt to bring the cost of the islands down as to make them as affordable to as many individuals as possible.
It makes sense to develop real estate where it is most sought after - on the water - the vast proportion (more than 90%) of humanity lives in close proximity to the water, and as the number of people vying for a finite commodity increases, (waterfront property is unquestionably the most sought after of any residential property location), the cost is fast approaching, or perhaps has already passed the point where it is economically viable for a lot of people.
Floating homes aren't new either, and there are some interesting takes on exactly what new water-borne real estate might look like, from the floating Nackros Villa to the collection of floating residences at the German lakeside resort Lausitz Geierswald to the Trilobis submerged floating apartment concept we covered a decade ago.
The Orsos promises island living on a smaller scale than a luxury yacht, but one that is no less comfortable and much more cost-effective in terms of purchase and maintenance.
As it stands, the Orsos Island has the equivalent of six double rooms, and Gábor promises plenty of room for up to 12 residents, and if required, accommodation for up to four staff members as well as an office and a recreation room can be built into the design. Indeed, if accommodation capacity is your sole goal, the Orsos can theoretically sleep 80.
The idea of being able to change the scenery outside the front door, is now a real possibility.