Waterstudio.NL is world-renowned for its forward-thinking approach to architecture. While so many architects and developers (especially in our region) are still stuck on growing mammoth skyscrapers on land, this Dutch firm has carved a niche in floating architecture in preparation of climate change and rising seas. Their projects are numerous and range from small house boats to whole islands.
But we question whether it is fair to bill one of their recent projects, the Greenstar Hotel underway in the Maldives, as a beacon of light, the shining star of sustainable development? More vulnerable to rising seas than virtually any other nation, the Maldivian government has signed an agreement with Dutch Docklands to develop 80 square million feet of floating buildings, golf courses, hotels, and other floating buildings. But is this the right approach?
Star-shaped floating hotel
Shaped as a star and covered in stepped layers of green in order to “fit with the natural surroundings,” the Greenstar Hotel will have 800 rooms and a conference center that can accommodate as many as 2,000 people. It’s being pitched as the number one destination for discussions about climate change, as the Maldives is considered a leader on the subject.
But how many floating structures can we really sustain?
We think of the oceans as a vast unexplored territory; after all, 70% of the earth’s surface is comprised of water. So it seems obvious to spill out into this space when land becomes uninhabitable or buried under rising oceans.
And the Maldives may have no other choice. Just six feet above sea level, this group of islands in the Indian Ocean – located roughly 300 miles east of India – will be reclaimed by the great ocean with just a one meter rise in water levels.
Fix land-based behavior first
It’s hard to find conclusive data or to predict exactly how fast levels will rise. Although scientists work around the clock to monitor climate change and consistently send our urgent warnings to government to scale back on carbon emissions, the truth is, we just don’t know, although conservative estimates show that we can expect a one meter rise by 2050.
Back in 2004, National Geographic reported that “The complete melting of Greenland would raise sea levels by 7 meters (23 feet). But even a partial melting would cause a one-meter (three-foot) rise. Such a rise would have a devastating impact on low-lying island countries, such as the Indian Ocean’s Maldives, which would be entirely submerged.”
So a certain amount of planning ahead is understandable as we are hard-wired to survive. But before we start to think about colonizing the oceans, further displacing whales, dolphins and the other creatures whose lives we have made miserable with our unending waste streams, sonars, fishing trawlers and other manmade hazards, shouldn’t we be doing more to fix our land-based behavior first?
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