Our planet is in crisis; greenhouse gases are blanketing the atmosphere, melting polar ice caps, causing methane to leak from the tundra and threatening the food chain. Renewable energy is still decades away from being a commercially viable alternative and nuclear energy is still facing political headwinds.
Singapore needs additional space, but the traditional method of land reclamation with imported sand is becoming increasingly unsustainable. As an island nation, Singapore is on the front line of the catastrophic effects of environmental degradation and needs to spearhead the adoption of more environmentally sustainable practices.
On 10 July 2019, Mr Lim Soon Heng, founder President of the Society of Floating Solutions (Singapore) shared the phenomenal development of massive floating structures.
He made the case that thousands of hectares of land now used for fuel storage, power plants, shipyards, farms and golf courses can be relocated offshore, freeing up land for housing and fourth industrial revolution industries.
Mr Lim began by illustrating that the only difference between structures on land and on water are their foundations, with floating structures being supported by water. He explained that a structure of any size can float as long as it sinks to the point of displacing enough water equal to the weight of the structure.
Unlike structures on land, floating structures do not depend on soil conditions and rising sea levels. They theoretically do not have height limitations, and are resilient against earthquakes and tsunamis. Mr Lim asserts that just about anything can be put on a floating structure and it is the way to go for Singapore.
Currently, some countries have already built airport runways, power stations, nuclear powerplants, theatres, tunnels and bridges as floating structures. The company Shimizu is even proposing the construction of a 1000-metre floating tower, which is taller than the 828-metre Burj Khalifa.
Mr Lim emphasised that Singapore has all the expertise to excel in this field. Unfortunately, there is not enough communication and collaboration between industry players focused on land and marine structures. Building floating structures require expertise in engineering, model-testing, design audit, towing, lifting and insuring, which are available in the country. Mr Lim hopes experts in these fields will come together to make more of such structures a reality in Singapore
He shared his vision of what Singapore can look like; dividing areas into zones for industrial, commercial, residential, and agriculture use. Other facilities that can operate more efficiently on water are desalination plants, powerplants, data centres, floating reservoirs, recreation areas, prisons and military services. Land can then be repurposed for housing and new industries.
The talk ended with Mr Lim addressing questions from the audience such as possible negative effects of floating structures on other industries (such as fisheries) and the environment, and how being on water can help counter these.