If you have ever imagined what it would be like to float on air, your dreams might be coming true. Global companies, including Bjarke Ingels Group and Oceanix, are concerned with the increasing threat of sea level rise to several small islands, especially to the French Polynesian islands. What’s their solution? Floating cities! Trust us; it’s not as absurd as it sounds.

Sea level rise threat

In 2007, entrepreneur Mark Collins Chen began to review his native homeland, the French Polynesian islands. He assessed whether sea level rise was a dangerous threat to the group of 118 islands in the South Pacific. He learned that one-third of the islands would be submerged by either 2035 or 2050. That could be nearly 15 years away, and that’s a severe threat to the natives who call those islands “home.”

Chen knew there had to be a possible solution to this growing concern. Sea level rise won’t just affect the French Polynesian islands, but anyone who lives in a coastal region, including the United States’ Hawaiian Islands. As many as 2.4 billion people, approximately 40-percent of the world’s population, would be impacted by rising sea levels as a result of climate change.

That’s why in 2018 Chen started his human habitation company, Oceanix. The company aims to build off-shore urban infrastructure that will help habitants weather the growing problems of rising seas. The infrastructure is also used to help people protect their homes in extreme floods and storms.

But he’s not going to stop there. He wants to build groups of floating islands that would serve as human settlements. Can you imagine living in an area where you knew you were floating on ocean water?

What the plans look like

In April 2019, Chen and a group of collaborators, including architect Bjarke Ingels of Bjarke Ingels Group, unveiled plans for a sustainable floating city to the United Nations. The collaborators, consisting of experts in zero waste, water engineering, mobility, and energy-efficient design, laid out plans of 4.5-acre hexagonal floating islands. These new islands would be close to the size of three and a half football fields and would house up to 300 people.

Six of these islands would form a small village around a central open port. Each island would have a specialized purpose. For example, one island might be the primary location for healthcare needs, while another might specialize in education. Other islands would focus on spirituality, exercise, culture, shopping, farming, solar energy, and more. If this sounds like a utopian society you see in movies, you’re not alone. Some people have concerns about the living conditions. While the plans seem plausible, deputy executive director of UN-Habitat Victor Kisob commented, “It’s our duty to make sure this burgeoning sector is mobilized for the good of all people.”

Moving forward

The UN hasn’t formally approved of the plans, but they agree that if anyone can come up with a safe and efficient floating city, it would be Chen and his Oceanix group. He’s already prototyping the hexagonal floating modules. Each island would be anchored to the bottom of the ocean, using a material called biorock. While it will take a few years to complete the project, both Chen and Ingels are confident that if people would simply give the islands a chance, they would be amazed at what they would see.

Ingels explained, “Imagine a community port where you have a market down by the sea, where you can go in the evening and stroll and hang out, where you can move around on electrical nautical vehicles (instead of cars) on this bazaar-like street along canals that connect and separate islands.” It’s an ambitious plan, no doubt. But if you have ever wanted to live “off the grid” and in a safe, environmentally-friendly community, it’s time to pack your bags.