Floating City of the Future – Documentary Films

We didn’t have a French Quarter here our new Bourbon Street we’ve got one of the best ocean views in the city actually it’s all ocean views in this city engineering the future of New Orleans means tackling the city’s troubles today this historic City home of Dixieland jazz beignets and buskers is under siege increasingly fierce hurricanes threaten to drown this jewel of the south over 150 years ago this was America’s richest city but in recent years devastating floods have brought the Big Easy to its knees situated at the bottom of a giant bowl shaped geological depression New Orleans is surrounded on all sides by water Lake Pontchartrain to the north Lake Borgne to the east and the mighty Mississippi to the south global warming is increasing the number and ferocity of storms water levels have risen nearly a foot and all the while the city’s weight is causing it to sink slowly into the wet Louisiana soil at the rate of an inch a year when Hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005 the storm surge submerged 80 percent of New Orleans 200,000 people were left homeless and 1,500 people lost their lives the price tag for the damage was over 80 billion dollars nearly four years later New Orleans is still picking up the pieces and trying to answer one burning question can the city be saved over 160,000 citizens who evacuated during Katrina have never returned but what if this broken community could be rebuilt with a radical engineering solution that would place the city above the water forever that’s the hope among the owners of new houses like these who refused to give up located in the Lower Ninth Ward the worst hit part of the city each house stands higher than Katrina’s 8 foot flood line Collins foots is a New Orleans native of 40 years who is determined not to let another hurricane shake him the wings did build his house the suppose can take 140 mile an hour wind got that stone resistant glass on it put a 2×4 whatever hit it won’t break it you know the main floor rests eight feet above the ground on piles driven 35 feet deep into the clay like soil this house with built in the video for my great-grand cheer yeah this house is safe as long as there is no storm worse than Katrina but if the next storm brings waters higher than the last even this house will be under water the next time the next one hits those buildings will not survive because structurally they’re the same buildings that blew apart in the first place they’re just new versions of the of the old system no matter what we do to defy nature or to create a wall against it there’s no way we’ll resist the forces of nature so rather than fight the inevitable some engineers are proposing an audacious new plan float the entire city by cutting the cord with land homeowners will always remain high and dry and there are financial advantages Collins foots house requires costly support piles driven deep into Louisiana’s wet clay soil as well as expensive storm resistant glass and wood neither would be required in a New Orleans floating offshore from the old city rising and falling with the water no longer drowning beneath it so in a way we’re asking nature can we borrow the water and try this experiment with the hope that the conclusion of the experiment will make our relationship with nature that much better globally it’s not as crazy as it sounds technology has recently caught up to the idea advances in material science nautical design and maritime construction make a floating city possible can you build it yes you can whatever it is yes you can build it but it’s not a question of whether you can do it it’s a question of how you do for a floating New Orleans to succeed it has to do one thing the old city couldn’t survive a killer hurricane to do that designers will need to study Hurricane Katrina and the engineering failures that ensued until we learn the lessons from nature we will continue to have buildings and environments that are devastated by natural disasters and New Orleans is a perfect example of that for many Hurricane Katrina is a lesson in the unpredictable violence of Mother Nature the storms beginnings showed few signs of a fury to come you know Katrina grew from a disturbance that came across the tropics and its first landfall was right across South Florida and at the time and Greeley didn’t look like much the winds were barely at a category one system when as Katrina blew past Florida the storm suddenly took a turn for the worse it entered into an area of the Gulf of Mexico the hottest water throughout the tropics so here was an incredible energy source for this system to absorb and it did and it grew and it grew into a major system as the hurricane bore down on New Orleans an evacuation call was made many fled but others assumed the city’s defenses levees flood walls and canals would shield them as they had in previous storms but this time was different New Orleans could have survived Katrina’s wind and rain but it was Katrina’s 30-foot high storm surge that overwhelmed the city as Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the morning of August 29 2005 excess water from nearby Lake Borgne surged into the industrial canal that borders the Lower Ninth quickly over topping the flood walls at the same time a 15-foot high storm surge from Lake Pontchartrain drove up to 17th Street and London Avenue canal flooding the city altogether 83 of New Orleans levees failed you can engineer to withstand a certain amount of wind speed or wind force but the most difficult thing to try to protect against this storm surge a wall of water anywhere between 10 15 or 20 feet high oh it was devastated after stone man you couldn’t even get in here never seen nothing like it my house it was pushed off the blocks but he didn’t care more and all the rest of them was gone you didn’t know what wasn’t what you know hope I don’t have to move nothing like that no more experts say a floating New Orleans would be the most effective way to neutralize the threat of storm surges but engineering a floating city would be a daunting undertaking the first critical problem is making the city float the city’s base must be designed to be both flexible enough to withstand turbulent waves and stable enough to support hundreds of buildings and hundreds of thousands of people the city could initially be anchored near shore to tap into the resources of the old New Orleans but the threat of storms and the lure of fertile fishing grounds could necessitate leaving the land behind altogether and floating out into the open sea where it would need independent infrastructure to produce power food and water and robust defenses to protect its people it’s gonna be a long and complex process to go from what we have on the ocean right now boats and ships to a whole civilization out there to multiple cities I want to build something that’s like America was at the beginning of the twenty 20th century where the best and the brightest and the hardest-working people from all over the world say I know if I can go here and work hard I can make a new life for myself and to do that we have to bring the cost way way down we have to do clever engineering to take this harsh environment and make it so that people can live there we must think a lot about modes of failure in order to avoid them clearly if you’re in the middle of the ocean and something breaks you’re in deep trouble you can’t just pull over the next gas station and have some guy come out and fix it you know you might be a thousand miles from the nearest gas station the stakes are sky-high New Orleans cries out for solution big enough to meet its problems what’s the logical starting point in engineering the world’s first floating city cargo ships the biggest vessels roving the world’s oceans today the cargo ship fleet hauls more than two billion tons of cargo a year these ships are capable of shouldering more weight than any other waterborne vessel and they’ve got a lot to teach the engineers of a floating New Orleans here at nasco shipyard in San Diego this 300,000 gallon super tanker is just a few months from completion but tight deadlines are no problem because a revolutionary new construction process makes it faster than ever to build these massive ships instead of building piece by piece this ship is being constructed out of huge modules called Grande blocks this shipyard is possibly the world’s biggest assembly line with specialized teams working in parallel on multiple Grande blocks pre outfitting them with plumbing electric and ventilation producing house sized sections that can be lifted and slotted into place modular building is the fastest way to go and has led to an explosion in the epic size of cargo ships the largest have lengths of over a quarter mile and a carrying capacity of 156 thousand metric tons it seems amazing that a super tanker can ever keep afloat but surprisingly the key is the cargo ships massive bulk to carry so much weight the ship must distribute it over as large an area as possible in contrast smaller boats don’t carry heavy loads so they require much less surface area on their undersides to stay afloat but they pay a price for their small size in another area lack of stability anybody who spent five minutes in a canoe with a paddle in one hand in a beer and another will work out really quickly what what the effects of not enough stability is the slightest shift in balance on a small boat can be enough to tip it over but the massive size of long wide cargo ships makes them a super stable if you’ve got you know something that’s ten meters wide and 10 metres long and of a meter deep then your buoyancy is arranged over a huge area so you can you can have all kinds of people running around on the top of it and it’s not gonna make much difference in global terms to where the weight is the center of gravity because it’s spread over a big area that’s key for floating new orleans where the regular traffic of residents and constant new construction in the growing city would dramatically shift weight loads topside if you have a long wide structure you can move your center of gravity around a lot without compromising the stability of your structure this city’s platform could be built from grand block size chunks then assembled into a single massive structure at NASCO it’s this intricate choreography of assembly that’s the real art in the process that’s because grand blocks don’t have a standard size and shape in effect each block is a uniquely shaped puzzle piece putting them all together takes dozens of shipbuilders and these two 300 ton cranes around the shipyard they’re known as the sumos tank how is the man who tells them what to do my name is a Hankow and I’m the superintendent of rigging here at national steel and shipbuilding I run all the cranes and I’m responsible for all the major block movements today hank is preparing for a critical lift picking I’m a ref being chased out of town after the worst game of my career you forget one down in the whole stadium turned on and if you have cut-rate insurance it may not pay for all this so get Allstate you can save money and be better protected from mayhem like me some less get more make one call to an office twenty by 30-foot hole in the ship’s Stern it’s the heart of the entire ship but only eight ropes are needed to lift it they’re made from Kevlar the same material used in bulletproof vests each rope can hold 50 tons hey good morning we’ve taken the stands off so the weight should drop a little bit so it’ll be somewhere to 262 to 275 range Hank has supervised over 700 grant block lifts in his career he says each lift is a unique puzzle since every block is shaped and outfitted differently than its neighbor once the block is in position above the ship it’s ready to be lowered into place and as you can see there’s an awful lot of tight clearances and tolerances and the number one thing we want to do is get it down get it down safely and not cause any damage Hank and his team work with the crane operator 17 stories above them nudging the 280 tonne engine back and forth by millimeters finessing it into place finally Hank gives the word and the engine settles on to its mount my boss when I first started working here they said that shipbuilding is the 3ds it’s dirty dangerous and it’s demanding and in this particular case I want to make sure that we don’t ever look back on it and say we should have done something differently either because we hurt somebody or because we damaged something so work I’ve got one of my guys that has on his on his helmet he says chess not checkers and that’s what we’re trying to do NASCO has the art of shipbuilding down to a science they produce more big ships every year than any other shipyard in the US and a floating New Orleans could easily adopt their modular construction method but while cargo ships would inform the platform design of the city there would have to be significant differences building a ship large enough to support an entire city would require too much steel its hull would extend 300 feet underwater and the city ship would be bigger than the three largest shipyards in the world combined but the biggest problem facing a massive city ship is that violent ocean turbulence would attack it from all sides putting unsurvivable stress on the structure the number one engine challenge is waves waves are big they’re unpredictable they have tons of energy in them wave action in the ocean is not a simple matter of water coming up and down it’s moving it’s actually rotating waves will be coming in quite often from from different directions at the same time so what we have to do is to assume worst case so if the vessels being supported on its extreme ends that’s one thing but what if it’s being supported on its extreme ends and it’s being twisted at the same time teetering on its ends would put extreme stress on the middle of the ship a wave that struck at the wrong moment and the wrong location could cause a total structural failure to a city built like a cargo ship structurally it’s not a very good solution to your problem it might a beautiful solution in terms of buoyancy in terms of stability but structurally you’re just asking you’re asking for trouble so modeling the city on the cargo ship isn’t the answer for a floating city to succeed Engineers must build it both big enough to remain stable but flexible enough to survive the role of chaotic gulf waves until we learn the lessons from nature we will continue to have buildings and environments that are devastated by natural disasters just have to admit that we were wrong and nature is right and we’d better hurry up study nature before it’s too late and what is nature’s answer to the floating platform problem living islands of vegetation floating freely on the surface of lakes absurdly strong and very flexible instead of being rigid like a giant floating platform you’re more like a flexible membrane so as the ocean waves pull and twist and push the structural system is giving away to that it flexes with it like a like a living organism floating islands form when the root systems of water plants fuse together and detach from the muddy lake bottom up to six feet thick and with an area over 20 acres they are found throughout the world and here on lake titicaca peru they have inspired man-made plant platforms capable of supporting villages of 2,000 people these islands point the way for floating new orleans not a single rigid structure but hundreds of small interlocking platforms join to form a massive superstructure big enough to stay stable but flexible enough to roll with the water for a floating city to succeed engineers must build it both big enough to remain stable but flexible enough to survive the role of chaotic Gulf waves you’re not considering one monumental platform that then has to deal with whatever the the nature and the sea is throwing at it now what would you know we’re talking about many smaller things that can be connected flexibly so that they can move up and down relative to each other and if the big wave comes through it allows the whole thing to move up and over the way and that’s the secret that’s the way nature would create a giant structure like that the same idea is getting traction in a country 5,000 miles away like New Orleans the Netherlands has battled the sea for centuries it lies below sea level and is protected by dikes high flood walls similar to levees but sea levels are rising creating with the Dutch called new water expanding lakes on Amsterdam’s edges that strangle growth and threaten to put the city underwater this has led to a radical new solution an increasing number of families are choosing not to avoid the water but to move on top of it into houseboats it’s the only way to guarantee that your house will stay above water and a cheap alternative in a city where new water is making land more and more expensive but houseboats aren’t perfect they’re too small and lightweight to be truly stable and if there’s any turbulence at all they are simply too risky but some see the new water is an opportunity and are quietly leading an expansion into enemy territory Devonian alone does the tunica it’s not a passion it’s a way of life I live in a country that’s below sea level it’s one big waterfront over here and I’m very driven by the fact that we only build here in one way a static way on land and we have water all around us so I’m trying to build in a new way and that’s on water this is cones shot across the bow with the floating city revolution a two-story house where the first floor actually sits below the waterline it’s a design never before attempted in traditional houseboats made possible by an innovative hull design most houseboats have a shallow hull with a high center of gravity and inherently unstable design but cones house utilizes a deep hole that dramatically lowers the center of gravity additionally a ring of dense concrete around the edge of the hull helps distribute the load across the entire floating house it means the structure is much less sensitive to waves than a traditional houseboat would be it still moves up and down with minor fluctuations and water levels in the new New Orleans deeper platforms under taller buildings would stabilize them and ringing platforms with concrete would neutralize the shifting weights of the working city above for cone individual houses are only the beginning I shouldn’t put them that well if you’re talking about urban development it’s not only about housing there’s so many types of buildings you need to create a complete city like hotels churches we don’t only design these houses but we try to design a complete toolbox of solutions that can be used to make a city on water cone is making his grand plans a reality in a new floating suburb currently under construction Ralph Peters is Combes chief engineer obey the this development for 300 houses in total is the first and biggest development in floating houses in the world so in this case we have a lot of Engineers and utility managers to have the best quality of floating houses so we’ll be ready for the future to have even bigger developments possible expansions like this are possible because the floating houses are cheaper to build than land-based houses for one thing they don’t require driving piles 35 feet into the ground like the raised houses in New Orleans ashay and get an island guy building on water is much easier than building on land Polland is just one big swamp it means all the soil is very soft and building here takes a lot of effort by making all these piles into the ground and then even after 10 years your house can start to go a little bit out of balance on water you only have to build a floating foundation and if you can build a foundation a little bit larger than a houseboat then you have a very stable platform on which you can build just about any house you’d like houses can be built quickly indoors and then floated into place here at ABC our can bow just outside Amsterdam 22 floating houses are under construction each house begins in one of the factories 10 working Bay’s called dry docks as the underwater concrete Hall is finished construction begins on the house above essentially fusing house and platform making them strong and inseparable once finished the house is floated out of the factory and into place at four months a house within five years all 300 houses in Amsterdam will be finished and the efficiencies of this production model would be even more pronounced in New Orleans thousands of buildings could be built in just a few years in a land-based factory then floated out to the city and connected to each other standardized platforms fused with pre-built buildings mean the city would grow faster expanding exponentially in all directions and residents would be able to move into their ready-made floating homes immediately the halo parts after disasters as we’ve seen after Katrina people are more willing to accept new technology these things will only be accepted after a big disaster a floating New Orleans just offshore is within reach but engineers want to go further and cut the cord from land entirely that means finding a self-sustaining way to provide food water and electricity to the city’s 300,000 people no easy task but not impossible since it floats it could be possible for the entire city to change location at will but while a mobile New Orleans presents new opportunities it also presents sustainability challenges near land New Orleans would be able to tap into the utility grid of the old city but once unplugged from shore and on the move the city would have to be able to draw its resources from the ocean at the beginning we’re going to need to build things on land import a lot of things from land as the economies grow as a citizen bigger and bigger they can be more and more self-sufficient more and more self-developing the seeds of a truly self-sufficient floating city exists today on cruise ships they have the job of keeping passengers cool fed and hydrated 24 hours a day in the middle of the ocean or a week at a time the key to surviving comfortably in the middle of the ocean is power power drives every system on a cruise ship from water supply to waste disposal these diesel engines are the ship’s power plants they drive electrical generators that produce 11,500 kilowatts apiece each day the power is split between two separate systems two-thirds go to the ship’s propulsion system called azipods and the rest is used to power all the other systems on the ship New Orleans could produce and distribute energy the same way engines could power generators pumping electricity into a power grid embedded in the floating platforms but such a system would need to be a hundred times larger and it would need fuel a lot of it a crew ship needs 300,000 gallons of diesel fuel a day a floating city with a population of 300,000 and significantly I’m a ref being chased out of town after the worst game of my career you forget one down in the whole stadium turned on if you have cut-rate insurance and then I’ll pay for all this so get Allstate you can save money and be better protected from mayhem like me some less get more make one call to an Allstate as much burning this much diesel fuel will result in an environmental disaster instead the new New Orleans could power its generators with alternative fuels wind turbines have the same energy output as a ship’s diesel engines solar panels could feed additional energy into the power grid but the greatest source of power available to a floating city would be the ocean itself it’s a method of generating power called ocean thermal energy conversion the basic idea is that the water temperatures of the ocean vary quite a bit from the warm surface to the very very cold dense and that that temperature differential can be translated into electrical energy the principle is the same as that and heat pumps found in refrigerators and air conditioners a thermodynamic engine is placed between a high and a low temperature reservoir he generates steam that flows from one reservoir to another turning a low-pressure turbine and generating power by drawing energy from the ocean the city would have an infinite fuel supply and that would be critical to meeting another constant need for residents water humans need three litres of water a day to survive but the water in the ocean is undrinkable consuming ocean water floods the body with salt causing human cells to dehydrate seizures unconsciousness kidney failure and brain damage soon follow this cruise ship runs the ocean water through an engineering gauntlet essentially stripping out the salt two hundred sixty thousand gallons of water are sucked into the ship each day and piped into the desalinization tank this filters the water decreasing the salt content by thirty five hundred percent but it also takes out essential minerals that the body needs so a mineralizing machine puts them back in then the water is sterilized and stored in these five hundred thousand gallon tanks the floating city could make its water the same way but the infrastructure would need to be scaled up by a hundredfold to process nearly 30 million gallons of water a day but while a cruise ship can turn salt water into drinking water salt water is useless for Agriculture’s a cruise ship is completely dependent on land for food a week long voyage requires 770 tons of it including 51,000 pounds of beef 106 thousand pounds of chicken and a hundred and fifteen thousand heads of lettuce this land a ship’s supply chain is fine for short duration journeys but a floating city could conceivably need to be self-sufficient for much longer stretches of time unshackled from shore the floating New Orleans would be free to mine a great new resource the ocean itself fruits and vegetables genetically altered to thrive in saltwater could be grown in rooftop gardens New Orleans fishing and shrimping community would flourish again in open waters far offshore a mobile New Orleans could follow fish southward through the Gulf I really do see the ocean as a place for freedom it’s part of it is that it’s the last unclaimed frontier all land is claimed right now every rock above water at high tide is claimed because it extends fishing and oil rights for some country so the ocean is really as some people have said the last free place on earth as the city moved away from shore it would still need a means of resupplying essential goods but the Gulf of Mexico is volatile especially during the stormy summer months and in emergencies rely on supplies from slow-moving ships isn’t ideal if there’s a weather situation that prevents supply ships from bringing in reinforcements there are food and things like that that can be a very difficult time for for people on the water the city would need a lifeline in tough times and these could be the engineering answer new New Orleans is looking for these could be the engineering answer new New Orleans is looking for they’re called unmanned surface vessels or US vs for short the high seas are lawless new New Orleans would need robust defenses to counter the greatest man-made threat on the ocean today pirates a floating New Orleans would be an all too attractive target as a first layer of Defense unmanned surface vessels would be the floating cities guard dog in a floating city concept the unmanned surface vehicle offers the ability to put humans out of harm’s way and provide a capability to know where the threat is and execute against that threat the fleet of USBs equipped with sonar would be able to type and track every craft in their vicinity and share information to patrol the waters around Navy ships the US V’s could repulse threat safely miles away from the city today’s threats that are emerging are faster stronger quicker and these unmanned surface vehicles are geared to respond rapidly to those threats but New Orleans won’t have conquered all its demons until it passes a final test hurricane season if New Orleans became a floating city killer storms would test the ingenuity of its engineers and the faith of his residence early and often imagine fishing season has led the floating city 300 miles from shore and thousands of late summer tourists have flooded the French Quarter 2,000 miles away a tropical depression is forming off the coast of South America it’s assigned a name Lolita hurricane season has finally begun now typically most systems happen throughout the Atlantic Ocean and then the Bermuda high pushes these systems through the Atlantic Ocean and then into the Caribbean and the eastern US from June through September the region averages over ten storms it’s Phil Farrell’s job to keep a close eye on the skies as a meteorologist in Miami Florida he’s forecast storms like Hurricane Andrew which did 27 billion dollars of damage in 1992 and Hurricane Katrina which dumped a foot and a half of rain on southern Florida on its way to New Orleans unfortunately storms these days are getting worse and worse that’s because global warming is raising water temperatures in the Atlantic and warm water is fuel for hurricanes it’s bad news for a floating city since the 60s the water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico has gone up a tenth of a degree that may not sound like much but if it continues to warm up that’s just extra energy for hurricanes to use to grow bigger and stronger fueled by summer heat Lolita’s loose cluster of thunderstorms swirls faster and faster tropical storm Lolita’s picking up steam in the Atlantic we’re gonna keep an eye on this one if you update it as a situation changes as Lolita pushes into the Gulf it feeds on energy in the hot water currents beneath it the thunderstorms turn faster winds exceed 100 miles an hour and waves tower more than 20 feet high tropical storm Lolita is now a full-fledged hurricane growing in power while Gulf Stream winds drive it straight into the path of the floating city hurricane Lolita is picking up this is gonna be a big one if you’re out in the open water you are on your own the waves coming at you getting bigger and stronger and into the destructive wall of water how do you engineer against that it’s a very difficult thing but the new city is engineered to ride out such storms to a point the storm surge rolls under the city’s modular platforms instead of crashing over them and wind damage is minimal because of the city’s low-profile skyline but while its defenses are adequate for a relatively minor category 1 or even category 2 storm more powerful hurricanes are a different story on the ocean storms can shift gears without warning the intensity of a storm can change dramatically in a matter of hours and that’s the real danger with these systems you can prepare for their arrival it’s just very difficult to prepare for their fury in the old New Orleans citizens handled hurricanes by fleeing mandatory evacuations during Katrina saved many but not all floating city planners aren’t willing to take their chances this time there is no reason to meet one of these monsters head-on cuz you’re always going to lose no matter how well designed you think it is no matter how strong you think the structure is get out of the way winds are picking up to 140 miles an hour the storm surge looks like it could be extremely dangerous we could be staring another Katrina in the face evacuating 300,000 people via rescue ships or unmanned surface vessels would be unrealistic in the middle of stormy seas and even if it could be done there might be no land close enough to evacuate – some have proposed another solution instead of evacuating people the entire city could be designed to get out of harm’s way it could be done with the help of a state-of-the-art propulsion technology called the azipod the azipod is a combination propeller and rudder capable of driving a ship in any direction and turning on a dime an array of azipods could be installed underneath the floating city giving it maximum propulsion power and total freedom in any direction but when facing a deadly category 5 bearing down at 25 miles an hour the city would have to move fast the lead is getting too big the city’s tall heavy downtown modules could potentially be too cumbersome to move quickly but downtown could be evacuated into residential modules that scattered before the storm and could regroup miles away in calm waters it’s a project many say is impossible even reckless but a new New Orleans is not only possible it may be essential it’s creating a experimental stage where we can take the most sensible technologies we have today and the most sensible social structures and say ok let’s try this a new New Orleans would be a beacon drawing a scattered community back together and letting the proud city float above its troubles once and for all

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