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Buoyant Ecologies

Last updated on Oct 30, 2020

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The Buoyant Ecologies Float Lab is a prototype for a new kind of resilient coastal infrastructure. It merges expertise from design, advanced digital fabrication manufacturers, and marine ecologists to imagine a floating architecture of the future that can exist productively with its surrounding environment.

This prototype, which builds upon five years of applied research at California College of the Arts, consists of a floating breakwater structure that incorporates an innovative, ecologically optimized fiber-reinforced polymer composite substrate with variable topographies that perform both above and below the water. On the top, the topography is engineered to channel rainwater and produce watershed pools for intertidal or terrestrial habitats. Underwater, the hull’s peaks and valleys vary in size to provide habitats for different types of invertebrates. Water flowing along this underwater landscape brings plankton and other nutrients into these “fish apartments,” helping to promote ecological diversity. In large masses, this biological growth can help attenuate wave action and reduce coastal erosion, one of the primary impacts of climate change and sea level rise. The vessel includes attachment fittings on the underside to suspend future prototypes and further develop the wave attenuation potential of the optimized substrate.

The prototype was deployed in San Francisco Bay in August 2019. It is currently moored in the Port of Oakland’s Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, where it serves as a floating research platform for developing ecologically optimized substrates for wave attenuation. It also serves as an environmental demonstration project and interfaces with public education and community engagement efforts sponsored by the Port of the Oakland.

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