“Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth are growing exponentially along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill” (Stephen Hawking, 1942-2018).
One aspect of the sustainability challenge, all too frequently overlooked, is the shortage of land. While there are approximately 51.7 million square miles of ice-free land on the planet, enough to accommodate the 11.2 billion people predicted by the end of the century, not all of it is habitable, and the population growth will inevitably place increased demands on the planet. Not only that, but rising living standards, temperatures and sea levels will increase the pressure on already scarce land resources. Accordingly, it is predicted by 2050, the land reserve will be used up. Indeed, in England, the most over-populated large nation in Europe, the pressure on land for housing has resulted already in developers building on flood plains that are prone to flooding, causing billions of pounds sterling worth of damage. Additionally, areas such as disused docklands, canals and waterways are not being used and are likely to become even less usable as global warming causes sea levels to rise further.
A potential solution is at hand. In April 2019, Kevin Draper, a Bristol (UK) based serial entrepreneur, launched Float8, a private Limited Company offering an innovative solution to the land shortage problem by developing on water. A Civil Engineering graduate of Brunel University in London and a Licentiate of the Institute of Building, Kevin has extensive property development experience, including the redevelopment of the 19th century Clouds Hill BT Factory in Bristol. Rather than demolishing this obsolete but historic building, he has turned it into twenty-two apartments and four new build units, at the same time keeping many of the original features and creating a community for the new residents and their neighbours. As a Yacht-master with the Royal Yachting Association, the vision of his latest venture, Float8, is to create “eco-floating communities beyond the waterfront” and help the UK reduce its carbon emissions to net Zero by 2050.
To do this, the small team that comprises the venture, works with its partners to produce a circular business economy that designs out waste, keeps materials and products in use, and regenerates natural ecosystems. Its first 800 square foot home, built in Lithuania by experienced nautical engineers, is located on the River Thames at Canary Wharf in the East End of London. Providing, as it does, quality living accommodation, Draper hopes the show home will “inspire the next generation of living, working and leisure facilities on water, in turn utilising an untapped resource that could help conquer the UK’s housing shortage”. Among the firm’s plans for development is a floating eco-village at Salford Quays in Greater Manchester, a floating Artisan eco-village in Wales, and a 100-hectare floating community in the Avon Gorge at Bristol. All of these initiatives are planned to:-
- Include floating community and leisure space to promote local wellbeing
- Use the latest eco-friendly technology
- Reintroduce natural plant and animal species
- Ensure a sympathetic balance between the development and its environment.
While such developments are all regeneration projects, Float8, sees “the abundance of flood plains as a sustainable and cost-effective solution” to the space shortage problem the planet is facing, rather than building on expensive brownfield sites or land much-needed for agriculture.
Float8 is addressing several of the UN’s SDGs, particularly 15 (Life on Land) and 13 (Climate Action), but also 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 7 (Affordable and clean energy), and 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) as well as 8 (Decent Work and Economic Development), 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing) and 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities). Also, and importantly, by working with and through its 12 professional partners, it addresses SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). These include the Terra Carta charter of HRH the Prince of Wales, which, like Harmonious Entrepreneurship, emphasises the need for systems thinking, innovation, and finding local solutions to global problems.
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