Shira Rubin, writing in Yale e360, offers a view of Holland’s innovative housing approach to a future where the increase in waterscape can become an advantage. And she illustrates how this might be of use in other parts of the world facing the same challenges from rising seas:
Faced with worsening floods and a shortage of housing, the Netherlands is seeing growing interest in floating homes. These floating communities are inspiring more ambitious Dutch-led projects in flood-prone nations as far-flung as French Polynesia and the Maldives.
When a heavy storm hit in October, residents of the floating community of Schoonschip in Amsterdam had little doubt they could ride it out. They tied up their bikes and outdoor benches, checked in with neighbors to ensure everyone had enough food and water, and hunkered down as their neighborhood slid up and down its steel foundational pillars, rising along with the water and descending to its original position after the rain subsided.
“We feel safer in a storm because we are floating,” said Siti Boelen, a Dutch television producer who moved into Schoonschip two years ago. “I think it’s kind of strange that building on water is not a priority worldwide.”
As sea levels rise and supercharged storms cause waters to swell, floating neighborhoods offer an experiment in flood defense that could allow coastal communities to better withstand climate change. In the land-scarce but densely populated Netherlands, demand for such homes is growing. And, as more people look to build on the water there, officials are working to update zoning laws to make the construction of floating homes easier.
“The municipality wants to expand the concept of floating because it is multifunctional use of space for housing, and because the sustainable way is the way forward,” said Nienke van Renssen, an Amsterdam city councilor from the GreenLeft party.
The floating communities in the Netherlands that have emerged in the past decade have served as proof of concept for larger-scale projects now being spearheaded by Dutch engineers not just in European countries like Britain, France, and Norway, but also places as far-flung as French Polynesia and the Maldives, the Indian Ocean nation now facing an existential threat from sea level rise. There is even a proposal for floating islands in the Baltic Sea on which small cities would be built…
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