It’s one of the world’s greatest dreams, which must have entered the mind of any child old enough to wield a bucket and spade. Just what would you do with two billion tons of sand and a free hand?
Renowned New York designer Dror Benshetrit knows what he’d do. He’d build HavvAda, one of the most forward thinking eco-islands in the world, which challenges many of the established principles of high-density living and brings people together into a social whole.
So, first things first: you take your bucket and spade and create some hills. Six of them all in a circle, to be precise. Now you have an eco-island with some interesting bumps and a central valley. But where are the people going to live?
Challenge number one: get rid of the sky scrapers. These buildings have long been criticised by environmentalists because of the huge foundations needed to support their weight. In short: the taller they are, the bigger the hole you have to fill with concrete at the bottom.
So lay them down flat to give even weight distribution: easy. But long straight things are pretty boring, so how about we wrap them around something… those hills for example?
There, all done!
Challenge number two: bring the people together. You remember those six hills we first made with our bucket and spade? Well it’s time to leave the bucket and spade behind and bring a little more sophistication to our eco-island. Instead of having six hills, let’s have six geodesic domes.
These will be hollow, allowing habitation and congregation to happen internally as well as externally. The floor of each dome can be dedicated to one particular facet of life shared by all (sports, culture, education, etc) while the valley in the centre of the island can be the eco-island’s main commercial hub.
With transportation links based upon communal methods like cable cars and walkways, we’re all going to get along just fine
Final challenge: make the eco-island eco-friendly. Now that our eco-island has layers of buildings wrapped around its hollow hills, we can work with that to help build the ecology of the place.
The external parts of the wrap-around buildings can be transformed into an environmental wonderland where people can walk and enjoy the outdoors, and the insides can be designed to have naturally circulating air and greenery.
What’s more, because these hills are going to be up to 400 yards high, the variation in between the plains at sea level and their summits will create genuine micro climates with diverse biodiversity and agricultural opportunities.
Finally, install all those great renewable energy systems and don’t forget rainwater harvesting alongside your wind and solar power. Heat from the sun outside and people on the inside will ensure an abundance of energy, creating a net-positive eco-island whose hills really do live as independently functioning ecosystems.
Just where’s this 2 billion tons of sand going to come from, anyway?
The rise of eastern European trade means that around 50,000 ships pass through the Bosporus every year, at least 10% of which are oil tankers. The Bosporus is a wiggly waterway which in places is only half a mile wide and the Turkish government has decided its getting way too crowded.
So they’re going to build a relief canal several miles away, very much like Suez or Panama. That’s going to need the removal of 1 billion cubic meters of earth, which equates to around 2 billion tons of sand.
You take this sand, lay it out in a 2-mile-wide circle and build your 400-yard-high domes on top of it. Cover them in a mesh and more earth and away you go.
And if you’ve read this far and are picking holes in the design: you’re right. It’s crazy, bonkers, fascinating stuff. But that’s the point: it’s a design, meant to be far-reaching and challenging, created as the pinprick of distant vision and ready to be refined and reworked by technical considerations.
But if only half of it happens (and let’s face it, two billion tons of sand isn’t going to disappear into thin air) it could be the start of a whole new way of building cities.
To find out more watch this video from the designers. And remember: design is at least two-fifths art!
Source: HavvAda Eco Island
Chris is a seasoned sustainability journalist focusing on business, finance and clean technology. His writing's been carried by a number of highly respected publishers, including The Guardian, The Washington Post and Scientific American. You can follow him on twitter as @britesprite, where he's one of Mashable's top green tweeters and Fast Company's CSR thought leaders. Alternatively you can follow him to the shops... but that would be boring.