The Horizon 2020 funded Space@Sea project kicked off in November 2017, with the aim of taking a further step towards the efficient use of the maritime environment. The consortium of 17 European partners developed sustainable and affordable workspaces at sea, consisting of standardised and cost efficient modular islands with a low ecological impact.
The Space@Sea consortium developed a system of coupled, interconnected floating pontoons. As these barges have standardised dimensions and couplings, they can be combined in any way to form different structures. This creates a modular and flexible floating island, as the barges can be rearranged to adjust the size and layout during the island’s lifetime. This flexibility is a key differentiator when compared to traditional land-based infrastructure, on which city plans or maps of industrial areas, are almost literally ‘set in stone’.
During the project, which was coordinated by MARIN, four exemplary applications have been investigated: Living@Sea, EnergyHub@Sea, Logistics@Sea and Farming@Sea. To get a good impression of what the floating future could look like in the long term, they were integrated in a demonstrator island (see picture). However, it is very likely that the realisation of floating islands will start with one or two of these activities nearshore. For example, floating extensions of existing cities with sheltered waters. With the knowledge built up within the Space@Sea project, we can gradually bring this technology a step further and ultimately create large-scale settlements at sea.
The hydrodynamic behaviour of the demonstrator has been researched at MARIN. At the beginning of the project, there were no existing numerical tools to predict the wave-induced motions of such large groupings of interconnected pontoons. MARIN therefore improved and extended the software packages DIFFRAC and aNySIM XMF to handle a large number of units (>80). During the project, the improved codes were continuously compared to model test results. Finally, the design of the demonstrator could be optimised for waveinduced motions using the numerical tools. The U-shaped layout provides partial sheltered harbour for the container vessels to (un)load their goods. The demonstrator island was tested at a scale of 1:60 in MARIN’s Offshore Basin and could withstand waves up to a 6 m significant height.
One of the strengths of the Space@Sea project is the diversity of its consortium members. These include architects, urban planners, logistical experts, biologists and hydrodynamic experts. There is also a variety of different types of organisation represented as the experts come from commercial firms, applied research institutes and universities. The diversity of the group minimises the risk of certain aspects being overlooked. Additionally, learning from each other has proven to be great fun and broadened the perspective of each participant.