The notion of building eco-towns in the ocean may seem farfetched, but architect Vincent Callebaut believes that his Aequorea project, a series of self-sufficient floating villages, could in fact be constructed by 2050.
Aequorea is an underwater farm project designed to be energy self-sufficient, recycle all waste and fight ocean acidification. The farm draws its name from a bioluminescent, light-emitting jellyfish with articulated, webbed tentacles, which enable it to swim and produce its own energy.
Built out of garbage
These bio-inspired villages would be 3D printed from algoplast, a composite material that mixes algae with plastic waste recycled from the so-called 7th continent – the Great Pacific garbage patch.
According to a global study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which includes analysis by the McKinsey Centre for Business and Environment, plastic rubbish will outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050 unless the world takes drastic action to recycle the material. The study shows that at least eight million tons of plastics find their way into the ocean every year – equal to one full garbage truck every minute. If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050.
Shaped like twisted towers, Aequorea’s blue carbon wells go 1km deep and with its carbon-rich aragonite transparent facades, are able to fix 2 500 tons of additional CO2/m² annually. The twisting of the towers is ultra-resistant to hydrostatic pressure and its geometry allows it to fight marine whirlpools and thus reduce motion sickness.
A double shell accommodates ballasting and once filled with seawater, the ballasts lower the Aequorea’s centre of gravity to counteract buoyancy and guarantee stability in the event of a storm or an earthquake.
Each village can house up to 20 000 people in modular living spaces. In addition, co-working spaces, fab labs, recycling plants, science labs, educational hotels, sports fields, aquaponics and phyto-purification lagoons stack up layer by layer.
Energy and air
On the ocean floor, a field of water turbines turns the sea currents into electricity using an ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) power plant. In order to produce drinking water and fresh water for aquaculture, the OTEC plant uses the in-depth pressure to counteract the osmotic pressure and separate the water from the salt via a semipermeable membrane.
Air is renewed either naturally by convection through wind chimneys or by the oxygen station via seawater electrolysis.
For heating and climate control, microalgae are grown in aquarium walls, which absorb the carbon dioxide produced by people’s breathing. These green-algae based bioreactors also recycle the liquid or solid organic waste, and produce energy through photosynthesis and biomethanation.
Although it is still a futuristic concept, the Aequorea project might be an option for sustainable living not too long from now.
Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to Vincent Callebaut Architectures, Paris, and News24 for the information given to write this article.
Aequorea quick facts
Project: A 3D-printed, multi-use ocean scraper.
Housing surface area: 1 375 000m².
Dimensions: 500m width, 1 000m depth, 250 floors (1/4 for permaculture and agro-ecology).
Building cost: 1 950 euros/m².
Status: Research and development.