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The Next Urban Development Frontier: On the Water?

| Friday February 19th, 2010 | 3 Comments

In our increasingly crowded world, there are many schools of thought as to how and where to fit all those people. Where do they live? Where is their food grown? And particularly vexing, where do they work? Smart urban design is fast becoming a must, around the world.

You could just keep building upward, sprawling outward, or even building underground, but what about on the water?

UK based WaterSpace has come up with an option that’s both practical and potentially profitable to the owner: H2Office.  With a shallow water profile, it could be set up in places where boats and ships cannot normally go. Much like biofuel made from Jatropha, which can be grown on land otherwise unusable for food crops, H2Office doesn’t need to take up space that boats and ships would otherwise regularly use.

Versatile in its configuration, the H2Office can be used as an office, a meeting space, even sleeping quarters. Kitchenette and space to eat also fit in this compact space. I could envision a series of these being strung together, serving as an office complex. As needed, companies could rent out additional space on a short term basis. Or, perhaps, these vessels could make a unique shopping cluster. It appears fairly malleable to a number of different needs.

I’d be curious to know if the optionally available solar power and wind turbines would be enough to power these units.

The price is fairly steep, the US equivalent to nearly $95,000 each for a unit that would provide office space for just one or two people. That, alone, may serve to limit its broader use. Still a it’s new idea, I think some smart social entrepreneurial minded designer will come up with a more cost-conscious, self-assembled version of this. And the H2Office may become an increasingly needed option, as the world’s sea levels rise.

Readers: What’s your take on H2Office? How/where else is urban space being effectively and interestingly used now? What options do you see developing in the coming years?

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations around, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media.


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  • Pangolin

    As anybody with a boat will gladly tell you it's not the cost of the boat but the marina fees and maintenance that kill you. As office space this idea is doubly stupid because Marina's have notoriously lousy parking and public transportation access. Finally, in most of the US and the EU surviving tidal lands tend to be protected as wetland habitat and planting marinas on top of them tends to be destructive.


  • bigjosboard

    I think this is a great idea. We should make use of all the space we have. Since population is really growing fast.

  • bigjosboard

    I think this is a great idea. We should make use of all the space we have. Since population is really growing fast.