Regenerative living on water - Bio-Inspired floating housing in a harbour in Rotterdam
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Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century. One of its consequences, sea-level rise, impacts coastlines all over the world leading to mass displacement of people in coastal regions. Around 10 per cent of all people live in coastal areas less than 10m above sea level1. In the Netherlands, a housing crisis is ongoing, and space on land is limited. To tackle these problems simultaneously, floating houses might be a good solution. Moreover, buildings tend to degrade rather than enhance the natural environment, contributing to climate change and biodiversity loss. The goal of this research is to design the most sustainable student homes in the Netherlands, on a boat. This project will act as a prototype of a scalable concept, which can be applied in coastal regions in the Netherlands and internationally. Sustainability reaches further than minimising harmful environmental effects, therefore the project seeks to go a step further by aiming to deliver a positive contribution to its natural surroundings. This is called ‘regenerative design’. The central question is what factors a prototype for floating housing would need to make the local natural environment thrive. For the design, a 67-meter-long inland vessel is used as a case study. It is situated in a highly urbanised region prone to flooding due to rising sea levels. The focus group is students. As a method, first, examples of other (floating) buildings are studied. Lessons from these projects form the basis for further research, and the design. For the design inspiration is taken by applying biomimicry. This is a discipline that takes inspiration from nature and biology to develop new ideas and innovations. Four system functions from the reference projects that further guide the research are regulating water, increasing biodiversity, storing energy & balancing temperature, and material usage. Focus is especially on the first and the second of these system functions. While the level of regenerativity can still be increased, the design poses an example of what is possible with today’s technologies. The design does sketch a clear vision of what the system could look like, which is a major contribution to bringing the design into reality. Lastly, the impact of a good example should not be underestimated. It can steer other developments in the neighbourhood or other coastal regions into a more sustainable or regenerative state and therefore have a higher impact than the local environmental impact of the project alone.