A team of architects in the Netherlands has unveiled a novel and ambitious form of environmental engineering to facilitate the growth of natural flora and fauna in high-density urban areas.
The Sea Tree concept, developed by Waterstudio, is essentially a floating skyscraper that serves as a high-rise, artificial habitat for animals, birds and plant life.
The structure would consist of multiple above-ground levels for birds and terrestrial fauna to inhabit, while also harbouring underwater storeys for aquatic life and coral.
The same offshore technologies and construction methods long used by Dutch engineers to build water-borne oil storage towers could be applied to the development of the Sea Tree. Large parts of the structure would first be assembled at construction sites on land before being transported to their final destinations and moored to the ocean floor by means of a cabling system.
"The Sea Tree is all existing and proven technology," said the company. "Our Dutch heritage with hundreds of years fighting against the water has provided us with a lot of innovative floating solutions. The oil companies use these floating storage towers already for years...we only gave them a new shape and function."
Waterstudio came up with the idea in response to calls from ecologists in the Netherlands for the development of new stand-alone habitats for animals that are free from human interference.
According to Waterstudio, the Sea Tree is an unprecedented, breakthrough concept with the potential to significantly facilitate the incorporation of natural ecosystems into urban environments.
"This floating tower will be the first floating object 100 per cent built and designed for flora and sauna," the company said.
Waterstudio compares the floating structures to "city apps" that can be quickly and conveniently added to urban environments to enhance their functionality, in the same way that software apps are installed on modern smart phones.
The company sees the floating structures being deployed in the rivers or bays of cities, adding facets of the natural world to urban settings without taking up expensive real estate.
"Urbanisation and climate change put a lot of pressure on available space for nature in city centres," said Waterstudio. "The beauty of the design is that it provides a solution, and at the same time does not cost expensive space on land."
The company expects the Sea Trees to be modestly priced at just 1 million Euros per installation, with costs varying depending upon water depth, mooring conditions, as well as preferred flora and fauna for the structure.