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As a house builder I came to look at the project, and to be honest, I perhaps do not have as much vision as some. I am used to finding a piece of dirt, arguing the toss with planners, and after a bit of give and take, being able in some cases to get on and build something that is salable. Cost wise the cost of the land is the major cost to me.
My initial interest was to look at joint projects, someone else can build an island and I can just build on the surface.
On the build web site I read about pneumatic platforms, that would produce large, flat stable areas of any size, and at whatever height from the water that I wanted. A quick check on the basics with some others I found via links, and I was excited about the possibilities.
My interest was in building executive homes for the well off, to a very high standard, and I wanted it to be like homes executives have elsewhere, on the surface with gardens.
I came up with this design, it had boat houses at the edge of the island, like freestanding garages, and a small wall between them, the land platform being just 6 ft above the water level. Each home would have a garden running down to its boat house, and backing onto a small service area, that could also be accessed via a small lane from the ocean end. The platform would contain some landscaping and also contain pits into which earth or pools could be put, allowing gardens, trees, and pools etc.
My design hit a problem when I showed it to the people from the floating kingdom, it could not be a central island of a strand as it had no highway and was too low and if it was one of the two outside ones, one side would be on the processional way and has no boat access.
Back to the drawing board. I realized that as the island would be made up of many floating units being put together, and there was no reason why with this design I had to have a solid shape, suppose I looked at something like a letter E with narrow slits as channels, now the island could be larger, more luxury homes could be constructed all could have access just as they would on an estate. Next I realized that with the system I was looking at using I could have platforms with different length pneumatic legs, this would give me a form of landscaping with less major construction.
I talked about my ideas with a few people and estate agents in particular thought the E shape with slits looked like a weakness, so I decided to have the slits but at well below the depth of the kingdom craft I would put a beam across to make it completely solid and to add electrically operated gates to the end of each channel, as the gates could float this was not going to add any great cost but would look good in illustrations.
The next thing I did was to look at the site I was proposing as if it was a normal housing estate I was building and work out where all the services would run, and where I would have foundations. The next problem then arose, services come to islands at a set height so that water craft can pass under them. This really presented no major problem as I could build a tower at each end, in the same way I designed in towers for the guy points that would hold the island in place they did not have to be all that substantial as I also added cross strands between towers in the direction of strains, so that the island was more suspended from the spiders web than in it. There was plenty of height for this.
So far so good, I could see I needed a platform of a set design, with foundation and service slots, and could say what was going to be on each part of the island so knew its weight. I could have probably managed the next bit but as there were others who could do it for me I let them design the pneumatic platforms and how they would fit together. Next we investigated the options to use the pneumatic system for power generation, which I was not really all that interested in unless it would add a lot to the property values. It was suggested it would be a major benefit and be cost effective but it was outside my range of knowledge and I wanted to get on, so I again looked to the platform designers. The problem was that it would be very effective most of the time but some times would produce nothing much when the sea was flat. What we decided to do was to get the basic piping put in and the building that could hold the generating gear and a service run back to where the services ran into the island, add control valves so at a later date the system could be closed and a generator installed if required.
At that point we spoke to one of the service companies and they offered to pay for the installation of the equipment necessary and provide a generator, on the basis that if the residents later wanted it they could buy it back, but up to then it would be used to heat water, some of which would be available within the island for heating swimming pools and the rest would be fed back through the cooling loop, and be free energy to them. They undertook to put a monitor on the generator so residents would be informed as to what it could generate.
This arrangement added value and cut my costs so I jumped at it. I also had one less thing to think about.
We got approval from the Floating kingdom authorities after they had looked with us at safety and stability etc and we had made very few minor changes, mainly in relation to safety to other parts of the kingdom and some additional bumpers for water craft.
In practice we had to build two islands, one to give to the kingdom, but with only the platforms to provide and no ground costs this meant it was still very profitable.
The basic pneumatic platforms constructed of Ferrocement were very simple, and we put out a tender document with drawings for their manufacture and delivery to the site. We had a range of offers to consider and chose one that was near to the cheapest that had a high level of quality control and where I was happy to go to several times to keep tabs on progress.
While this was being done I had the main parts of the houses pre built, not as pods but as sections that would be craned into place and bolted together, we would then build brick walls around, this is the system many hoses are made by.
Once the platforms were on site the power people put their stuff in first, then we had the shell pieces put up and contract brickies and craftsmen all completed the rest as they would on land, it just cost less as there were loads of people who wanted a trip out so the quotes from sub contractors was low. Most of the materials went out in containers and were taken directly to the islands. The roofs were sealed on so they looked like normal times but had an extra weather proofing layer on top. This was done by a company who normally offers this service on land.
Next we had the decorators working on the houses, with no earth yet on the site it was the cleanest building site I have ever seen. At the same time pools were constructed. We could have done this ourselves as the basics was done within the Ferrocement structure of the platforms, but I got a good quote to supply and fit the systems.
Basically all that was left to do was get earth delivered and landscaping, planting etc done, and again we had looked for contractors who could do this.
When it comes down to it I built houses basically the same, with fittings basically the same as I would normally and subcontracted all the extra bits.
The houses we had were all sold except one in no time, one we wanted to keep as a show house as we wanted, having cracked the magic formula to repeat the operation.
So what changes have we made in later islands, well the islands are larger, having got in early and had homes in use plus a show house I have been able to put up the prices and still sell as many as I can build, I have subcontracted more, and now have my own quality control people at the build site and where the platforms are being made. I have set up my own sales office as well as using agents, in this way I am able to save the agents commission.
In my view the secret was in going for the luxury market, and keeping everything as simple as possible, while most people are building up, I have concentrated on building out making the most of the free ocean space. Keeping low has also meant that all my islands get allocated to the front of the kingdom, away from the resort area, and amongst other nice islands.
Advice I would give you, is remember it takes five years to build an aircraft carrier for the military, and the cost could never be recovered as salable space created. On the other hand many people are looking at stacks of boxes that are cheap to produce and economic to sell. Clearly this is the bulk market, however look at other alternatives and remember anything can be done, its just a case of how much it will cost and can you sell the units you create and turn a profit with the cost structure.
We will go on building more islands, but we are also now starting to look at building individual estates, these are large islands with just two very large 10 or 12 bedroom houses, much larger grounds, party buildings, large multi level pool, and everything the billionaire requires. 6 islands using this design will be built to start, giving 10 houses to sell, a show house and a house for me. Well what's the point of making all this money if I am not going to go out there and enjoy it. The plan next is to go one stage further and offer a tailor made plan so if you want fields for your pony, a theme island of some type, and its a flat structure rather than a floating box, we are the people to talk to.
Copyright New Atlantis.