Are Very Large Floating Structures Future Of Land Reclamation?
Both legal and illegal land reclamation projects are a common sight in coastal areas across the world. Real estate projects developed on reclaimed land constantly struggle with environmental issues and natural hazards. Mumbai, a city built by connecting seven islands, for instance, has a never-ending relationship with flooding.
Besides, these projects adversely affect the ecology of water bodies, with seas and lakes losing their capacity to sustain birds and fishes. Recently, Kochi witnessed an illegal reclamation project in Chilavanoor Lake. Such environmentally sensitive regions can no longer sustain the pressure of haphazard development.
Instead of reclaiming land from water bodies, architects and engineers around the world are looking for ways to utilise water surface for construction. The focus has now shifted to develop 'Very Large Floating Structures' (VLFS) or Very Large Floating Platforms (VLFP) on water bodies.
A VLFS is a man-made floating structure that has no adverse effect on water bodies and does not cause any environmental degradation. Created by joining a number of floating units, such as steel, concrete or steel-concrete composite material, it is easy to repair and has a low manufacturing cost. VLFSes can be classified into two types -- Semisubmersible and Ponton. A semisubmersible VLFS is fixed in a place by a column of tubes and piles. It is particularly utilised in oil & gas explorations. It can remain stable in high waves while maintaining a constant buoyant force. A Ponton VLFS is a very flexible structure, as it just floats on water. It is the most suitable for calm waters and is best-suited for floating airports, docks, storage facilities, wind and solar power plants, bridges and habitation.
How Poton structures function?
Ponton floating structures use a design called mooring system to maintain balance at all tidal heights. A mooring line connects an anchor from a floating structure to the sea. The strength of the Ponton floating structure depends on the strength of the anchors and the depth of the drill on a seabed. There are several kinds of mooring systems, with the dynamic mooring system being the most popular one. It uses a computer to control thrusters and propellers to maintain its position.