Looking back and looking ahead to 2022: Upscaling Floating City Technology

Happy new year to all our partners, clients and innovators in floating urban development! 2022 promises to be another very exciting year for all of us.

With initiatives for floating projects in Singapore, South-Korea, Saudi Arabia and many other places, it is clear that floating urban development is becoming rapidly accepted as a climate resilient alternative for growing coastal cities. In the Netherlands, our new government has made the housing crisis, climate adaptation and the energy transition important priorities for the next 4 years. With our solutions we can help achieving these objectives in an innovative way.

Moving from Proof-of-Technology to Proof-of-Scale

The founders of Blue21 have been working on the proof-of-technology of floating urban development for the past 15 years. With many floating projects now realized by different innovators, both in the Netherlands and internationally, we think the sector should be now moving towards the proof-of-scale. It is crucial to demonstrate that floating urban development can be a feasible alternative on a scale that is relevant to the size of the global challenges we are facing. It is estimated that hundreds of millions of people will be displaced from their home by sea level rise this century. This is already happening today. Can we provide floating structures to this size of threatened population in the next decades?

At Blue21, our objective of 2022 is therefore: Upscaling Floating City Technology. Last year, we already made important steps in this direction. We had students from TU Delft doing their final thesis on the hydroelastic behaviour of very large floating structures and the interactions between floating cities and tsunamis. A student from Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences completed his thesis on the design of a floating bridge in extreme tidal conditions. We are also proud that we launched HydroMEC+, our in-house maritime engineering and 3D simulation toolkit for floating urban projects. The tool further strengthens Blue21’s design and engineering services to our clients and provides guidance needed for your floating project at the desired location.

To apply our technology at a large scale, we started very unique and promising collaboration on large-scale floating developments with entrepreneurs in the Baltic region and in Wales. In the Netherlands we have started together with Waterstudio and Kuiper Compagnons, to explore the concept of Pampus City near Amsterdam as a climate resilient solution to the housing shortage. In 2022, we will further develop all these exciting projects and investigate with our investor Buxeros how we can accelerate our initiatives.

Maritime urbanism, a new field of expertise

In our team, we see a new and exciting field of expertise emerging resulting from the collaboration between maritime engineers and urban designers: maritime urbanism. This new field first emerged during the Horizon 2020 project Space@Sea with 17 European partners where these very different worlds came together for the first time. Maritime urbanism investigates what the floating cities in the future could look like. How do we deal with environmental conditions and create public space, infrastructure and mobility? But also more social questions such as stakeholder perspectives, land-ownership and governance, ecological aspects such as water quality impacts (as investigated by Indymo in the past 6 years) and emerging new aquatic ecosystems under floating platforms, are investigated. MARIN initiated together with Blue Revolution Foundation a new national research initiative Floating Future, where 10 PhD students and two postdocs at four universities will investigate these interdisciplinary questions together with more than 40 partners in various case studies. The Floating Future proposal was submitted to the Dutch Research Council (NWO) in October 2021 and, if granted, would start in 2022.

International partnerships for more impact

International partnerships and collaboration are as important as ever before to implement floating development at a larger scale. In addition to our successful and very fruitful collaboration with Shimizu Corporation which has been in place for many years, we were happy to become global knowledge partner of 1000 Cities Adapt Now, a global program by Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA), WRI, UN-Habitat and Resilient Cities Network, to accelerate adaptation in 1000 cities by 2030. Blue21 has also been appointed by GCA as a key contributor to Floating Development-Communities of Practice on the Water Adaptation Community platform.

Spreading the word for global awareness

We are grateful that journalists and professionals from the Netherlands and abroad were again very interested in our work. In 2021 Dutch interviews included: Vastgoedmarkt, De Volkskrant, NPO and De Architect. International interviews and presentations included: Yale University, Dutch Water Sector, TU Delft Xperience Week, Singapore International Water Week, Global Center on Adaptation, Dubai World Expo, and ImpactFest. We were also proud that our Innozowa Floating Solar project was illustrated and promoted in the national stamp set amongst 10 highly representative Dutch innovations.

Moving the office and expanding our team

With Blue21, we were able to use the very unique Floating Pavilion Rotterdam that our founders initiated in 2009, as our temporary office for 1 year before it was moved from the Rijnhaven. This sustainable building has become an international icon for the city of Rotterdam, demonstrating climate resilience and flexibility of floating urban developments. During the past 11 years, the pavilion has provided inspiration for many and fostered a new “floating” culture in Rijnhaven. In 2022, it will be moved to RDM Campus where it will educate and inspire the next generation of sustainability innovators. With Blue21, we moved back to Delft in the summer of 2021, where we were able to join Buccaneer Delft, a high-tech accelerator for scale-ups in offshore and sustainable energy. Our team continues to grow. At the moment we have a vacancy open for an experienced manufacturing engineer to help us with our mission to scale up floating city technology. The ultimate goal of Blue21 is to make this climate resilient technology available to hundreds of millions of people impacted by sea level rise globally. Join us now!

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