Property Weekly: Floating islands

PWThe floating islands will be built alongside the reclaimed islands of The World off the coast of Dubai

It sounds like it’s right out of a Hollywood fantasy movie: made-to-order private islands that can float freely on water. And it gets even better: more than 30 of these islands will be built in Dubai.

Netherlands-based Dutch Docklands, a company founded in 2005 in the city of Delft, is offering to build private floating islands whose size, shape and style can be fully customised. They can also be shipped to virtually any location. The islands can consist of a villa, a beach, various waterfront amenities, a mini marina and even a car park. Unlike conventional reclaimed islands, Dutch Docklands’ islands can float freely.

Dutch Docklands, which has transformed its technology innovation into a new global niche market, has benefited from the several hundred years of experience of the Dutch in dealing with the unusual geography of the Netherlands, which is located in mostly reclaimed land and is below sea level.

“Many centuries of fighting against the water in the Netherlands has taught us all we need to know about controlling our wet environment,” says the company’s founder and CEO, Paul van de Camp.

“We have changed our mindset from fighting against the water into living with the water by using the existing technology in completely new ways.”

Together with architect and designer Koen Olthuis, Van De Camp, a former hotel and restaurant manager, launched Dutch Docklands and created a totally new global market for floating structures.

The company patented its technology for the construction of large-scale floating units and a variety of modules and also offer sustainable, environmentally friendly developments that aim for carbon neutrality and use techniques such as floating solar blanket fields, floating agriculture and energy-neutral fresh water production and storage.

     Luxury floating villas on Dubai's World Islands

“Environment and sustainability are keywords within our floating developments,” says Van de Camp. “Because of their minimal impact to the environment, we call them scarless developments, and the concept transformed from sustainability to ‘sustainaquality’.”

The company’s first project was in 2006 when a public-private partnership, the Dutch WaterValley alliance consisting of a number of leading Dutch companies with water-based knowledge primarily in the Delft delta, was set up led by Dutch Docklands to develop a niche market for floating structures. The project now employs more than 450 water-related researchers, engineers and specialists working on innovations, patented technology concepts and environmental strategies for floating solutions, including floating islands, boulevards and housing projects on the water, which mainly targets countries affected by climate change, heavy rainfall and rising sea levels.

Dutch Docklands has signed new floating island projects in the Maldives, Miami, Norway and Dubai. Last year the company signed an agreement with Christie’s International Real Estate to market made-to-order artificial private islands with villas, beach, garden and pool. The company has named its creation the Amillarah Private Islands. The first 10 of these islands are being built in the Maldives, while some 30 floating islands will be built each in Miami and Dubai.

“We have not only created a new luxury global brand with Amillarah Private Islands, but also a new industry of private island development to cater to our most discerning clients,” says Van de Camp. “In addition to our Maldives project and the developments signed for Dubai and Miami, we are actively looking for opportunities worldwide.”

Famed oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society has also been involved in the project to make sure the floating homes have minimal environmental impact. “Each of these homes is an eco-friendly work of art that can be lived in, allowing customers to not only create, but enjoy whatever kind of paradise they desire,” says Rick Moeser, Senior Vice-President of Christie’s International Real Estate.

Christie’s has already started selling the ultra-high-end residences in the Maldives at prices starting from $10 million (Dh36.73 million). The price is dependent on the features of each floating island, which could also include private submarines. In the Maldives, the floating private islands are located in a lagoon half an hour boat ride from the capital, Male, and its international airport.

The Dubai project will be built on The World, an archipelago of artificial islands off the emirate’s coast. Nakheel, the master developer of The World, approved the construction of 33 Amillarah islands. The project, called Oqyana World First, will be jointly developed by Amillarah and Oqyana Real Estate Company. Oqyana World First will be laid out in the shape of Australasia at the base of The World islands.

“This new development will diversify the already impressive Dubai real estate market to a new level of luxury,” says Van de Camp. “Amillarah Private Islands are completely self-supporting and all contain the latest state-of-the-art technology.”

Van de Camp, however, declined to provide further details about the Oqyana World First project, including the price of the islands. He said the project will be officially launched later this year, during which the company will share more details about the design, size, price and construction timeline of the project.

The government of Maldives, meanwhile, has approved three other floating projects – The Ocean Flower, a floating waterfront development with 185 villas costing between $1.4 million and $3.8 million each; Greenstar, a star-shaped floating convention hotel; and The Royal Indian Ocean Club, the world’s first floating 18-hole golf course. The entire master plan in the Maldives spans 800 hectares.

In the US, Dutch Docklands acquired a 75-hectare private lake near Miami to build more floating islands. Van de Camp says the project will be “a showcase model for US cities and local governments on how floating technology can change their approach in the fight against the rising sea level”.

In Norway, Dutch Docklands is currently working on a floating five-star hotel in a northern fjord. The design is based on an ice crystal, which blends with the environment. It will have 86 rooms, a conference hall, spa and wellness facilities. The company says the project will be self-supporting and self-sustainable.

Other floating projects
• Dutch Docklands also designed and engineered a solar cell-powered floating cruise terminal, which offers 300,000 sq m of space for mixed-used development. The biggest cruise ships in the world will be able to berth there, the company says.
• Floating car parks for crowded cities.
• Floating artificial beaches for places where there are no natural beaches or where sand shortage hinders traditional land reclamation. The company says a floating beach is ecologically justified and erosion-free.
• Floating waterfront boulevards in densely populated cities allow more space for retail, hotels, restaurants and recreation.
• Floating affordable housing, featuring small to large-scale floating structures that create entirely new urban zones. It could be powered by sustainable energy sources.

Source: Arno Maierbrugger, Special to Property WeeklyPW


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