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Tomorrow's world

The floating cities of the future

A floating home in Miami, built by Dutch firm Waterstudio

Dutch engineers have spied an opportunity with climate change, says Shira Rubin in BBC Future: floating houses. Whole floating communities have sprung up in the past decade, “proof of concept” for an idea that can be replicated “on any shoreline”. Unlike houseboats, which can easily come unmoored, floating homes are built around vertical steel poles, allowing them to bob on top of any passing waves.

It’s no surprise the idea originated in the Netherlands, a third of which lies below sea level. Rotterdam is 90% below sea level and is home to the world’s largest floating office building, as well as a floating farm where cows are milked by robots. Floating buildings have been such a success that the Dutch firms specialising in them have been “inundated with requests” from developers around the world. One company, Blue21, is working on a series of floating islands in the Baltic Sea, meant to house 50,000 people and connect to an underwater rail tunnel linking Finland and Estonia. Another, rather luckier Dutch group, Waterstudio, is overseeing construction of a 20,000-person floating city in an idyllic atoll in the Maldives.