Skip to content
Architecture, urban planning and research in, on and next to water
+31 70 39 44 234

Is This Floating Eco-Pod the Future of Overwater Bungalows?

By Terry Ward
Condé Nast Traveler

The sounds of the jungle catch me off guard on my first morning waking up in the SeaPod, a futuristic overwater bungalow off the Caribbean coast of Panama that is now open for overnight stays.

Hidden in the lush surrounding terrain, southern house wrens croon their scratchy wake-up call and whistling kiskadees compete with bellowing Howler monkeys. It’s quite the juxtaposition: my ultra-modern accommodation, complete with Starlink internet, touchscreen controls, and more than 100 sensors that measure everything from wind factor and lightning strikes to the SeaPod’s power and water consumption—and the primordial world at its doorstep.

The SeaPod, of which I’m among the first guests, is completely unlike the traditional thatched roof overwater bungalows I’ve visited elsewhere in French Polynesia and Jamaica—not least because it operates almost entirely on solar power, and harvests rain water on its roof. But unlike typical bungalows that rest permanently atop pillars wedged into the sand or rock, it floats on the water’s surface, temporarily tethered to the seabed with anchors that leave a far smaller footprint on the ocean floor.

“You don’t need to destroy the environment to place them there, since they’re truly floating,” says Laura Fernandes de Barros Marangoni, a post-doctoral researcher with Panama’s Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. “Bungalows and standard coastal resorts do touch the seabed—and tend to be more damaging to the local ecosystems.”

It’s this distinguishing feature, in part, that allows it to act as an artificial reef—not only minimizing damage to its environs, but actually restoring it. The invention of the high-tech ocean-innovation company Ocean Builders, the 845-square-foot SeaPod—whose open, circular design accommodates a kitchen, a small living room, and a bedroom and bathroom—is supported by air-filled steel tubes that rest beneath the water’s surface. Using the solar power it collects, the SeaPod generates a mild electrical current that works to attract calcium carbonate—a substance that not only protects the structure from corrosion and rust, but that also happens to be the building block of another crucial material: coral.

Floating eco pods in the forest.

A rendering of the land-based GreenPod Eco and GreenPod Flagship, which Ocean Builders is also currently in the process of developing.

 Ocean Builders

“Calcium carbonate is the best possible substrate for new coral recruits to settle themselves,” says Ronald Osinga, Assistant Professor in Marine Animal Ecology at Wageningen University in The Netherlands, who advises Ocean Builders on reef restoration projects. “So in this way, natural development of coral biodiversity is enhanced. The SeaPod is likely to become a source of a large variety of coral materials for reef renewal.”

Ocean Builders’ founder, Grant Romundt, became convinced of that while testing a prototype for the SeaPod offshore from Phuket, Thailand, in 2019. Within two months of launching the bare-bones beta version, he was amazed to see coral colonizing the structure’s steel tubing.

“Everywhere you looked there were thousands of fish,” Romundt says. “I was really excited. I realized our houses can restore sea life in the ocean as opposed to a house on land, where you cut down nature to build it—then put a potted plant in the corner to replace what you cut down.”

Romundt, who is Canadian, also has Panamanian residency. (The country’s Panama Residence by Investment Program, also known as the Panama golden visa, offers residence to foreigners willing to make a substantial investment into the country.) He chose Panama to launch the project, he told me, not only for its “beautiful marine environment and attractiveness for on-the-water-living,” but because it lies below the hurricane belt, making it a good place to test the concept’s initial viability. (Down the road, he plans to build hurricane-proof SeaPods to put in places like Florida, where there’s been much interest in the project.)

Romundt had originally conceived of the SeaPod as a residential structure, to expand coastal living options in an eco-friendly way. But the idea to turn the SeaPod into a hospitality project came naturally, he says.

“Giving people an amazing experience of what living in a floating home is like is the best way of growing and expanding our vision globally,” he says. “The steps we are taking here in Panama will be the basis for the future expansion of floating resorts in other parts of the world.”

Here, a dedicated concierge can stock your kitchen with local pineapple and lobster, and arrange experiences like in-pod dining with a personal chef, or excursions with Ocean Builders’ partners to visit other eco-restorative projects.

One morning, on a scuba diving adventure into Portobelo National Park with Jean Carlos Blanco, Executive Director of Reef2Reef Restoration Foundation, I donned a scuba tank to dive within a coral nursery, where some 750 individual corals are growing as part of a project with Panama’s Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The goal, Blanco tells me, is to eventually outplant 5,000 corals within the national park. His organization is also testing 3D-printing with Ocean Builders to develop coral to add to the SeaPods’ submerged steel tubing, another potential generator of marine life.

During another excursion—a hike and kayak trip into Portobelo National Park—my guide, Jason Ashcroft of Portobelo Adventures, shuffles a patch of leaves to reveal a green poison dart frog, and guides me to an island abloom with wild orchids.

Beyond Panama, says Romundt, one of the places Ocean Builders has set its sights on is the Maldives, a destination known for overwater bungalows—although none as tech-forward and eco-restorative as the SeaPod, which is the only project of its kind.

The project, which has already been approved by local partners, will “take the over-the-water bungalow concept that is so popular in the region and build out a fully floating resort based on SeaPods,” Romundt says, adding that more details will be available later this year. Ocean Builders is also in talks with partners in Dubai for a project that will mix residential- and hospitality-oriented SeaPods. They’ve also had inquiries from major hospitality chains, he says, who are “interested in how this can change waterfront vacationing and living”—though he can’t currently specify which ones.

For now, this Panamanian SeaPod—accessed through the fishing village of Puerto Lindo, where a floating dock extends out from Linton Bay Marina—is the only one that guests can book, for two-night minimum stays. Others are under construction in the marina, including a deep-sea version that will have an underwater viewing room, as well as the SeaPod Flagship, crafted with a split-level design. The plan for the near future, permits pending, is to move them to a location deeper within the bay to make them feel more remote, says Romundt.

On the last night of my stay, I untie a stand up paddle board tethered to the SeaPod’s dock. Atop water as smooth as glass, I paddle out into the bay, past mangroves where night herons stalk minnows, to a small island covered with the busy silhouettes of ibises in courting mode.

“Living in a SeaPod is like having a glimpse of what life in the future will be like,” Romundt had told me. “Every week there are upgrades and improvements.”

Right here and now already feels pretty magical to me.

These eco-friendly futuristic floating homes are currently under construction

By Tamara Hardingham-Gill
CNN Travel

Editor’s Note — Sign up for Unlocking the World, CNN Travel’s weekly newsletter. Get news about destinations opening and closing, inspiration for future adventures, plus the latest in aviation, food and drink, where to stay and other travel developments.
(CNN) — Floating homes, luxury living and smart home technology aren’t necessarily things that tend to go hand in hand.
But Ocean Builders, a Panama-based company that specializes in innovative marine technology, has just unveiled a fleet of “revolutionary living pods” that manage to bring all three together.
Described as the “world’s first eco-restorative homes,” the pods, which range from around $295,000 to $1.5 million in price, are currently under construction in the Linton Bay Marina on the north coast of Panama.
Designed by Dutch architect Koen Olthuis and his team at Waterstudio, the three models available include flagship model the SeaPod, built for aquatic living, the GreenPod, devised for land use, and the EcoPod, an ecologically and economically friendly option.

Elevated structure

A rendering of the Seapod, one of three upcoming pod models from Panama-based company Ocean Builders.

A rendering of the Seapod, one of three upcoming pod models from Panama-based company Ocean Builders.
Ocean Builders
The Seapod was conceptualized by Rüdiger Koch, Head of Engineering at Ocean Builders, along with Chief Executive Officer Grant Romundt, as a solution to the lack of space in popular beach destinations.
The elevated structure provides 833 square feet (73 square meters) of living space, including a master bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom, spread across three and a half levels.
With room for two people, the unit utilizes over 1,688 cubic feet of air-filled steel tubes to float 7.5 feet (2.2 meters) over the waves, and features 575 square feet of panoramic windows and 360-degree ocean views.
Romundt hopes the design will challenge perceptions of homes and travel, as well as allow residents to live on the water without having to make sacrifices when it comes to the “luxuries of modern living.”
“Normally when you live on the water, it’s on a boat, which has a living situation that is unacceptable to most people,” Romundt tells CNN Travel.
“So we’ve designed a home that floats on the water that gives you an experience of living on land, but even more.”
The pods are to be equipped with state-of-the-art technology, along with customizable applications that tailor the design and functionality to suit those inside.

Futuristic homes

The elevated structure was designed by Dutch architect Koen Olthuis and the Waterstudio team.

The elevated structure was designed by Dutch architect Koen Olthuis and the Waterstudio team.
Ocean Builders
Meanwhile, special “smart rings” worn by residents will enable them to unlock doors and switch their music on at the wave of a hand.
“If [technology company] Apple had built a home, I think you would end up with the SeaPod, or the GreenPod, or the EcoPod,” says Romundt. “There’s a lot of technology built into the homes.
“I like to think of it as, instead of having a phone as a digital assistant, your home actually becomes your assistant, and you can use it to optimize your life.”
The pods will initially be located in an area close to the Linton Bay Marina. However, the Ocean Builders team hope to be able to distribute them internationally once they’re confident the technology can be supported elsewhere.
A long-time advocate for oceanfront living, Romundt previously lived in a floating home in Toronto, and says it’s a lifestyle that’s hard to match.
“There’s just something really magical about being able to get up in the morning, walk downstairs, jump on a paddleboard and go for a paddle,” he explains.

Delivery drones

The units are currently under construction in Panama, with sales due to launch online later this year.

The units are currently under construction in Panama, with sales due to launch online later this year.
Ocean Builders
“It’s very peaceful and beautiful. Most people spend all year dreaming of their two-week vacation where they go to a tropical island, hang out, relax, regenerate and restore themselves.
“So why not just live like that all year round? It’s so easy to be able to work remotely now.”
While those who opt to live in one of these particular units will likely need to have a sense of adventure, as well as a fondness for water, Romundt says the team don’t necessarily have a specific type of customer in mind.
In fact, he’s confident that the majority of those who get to experience the Seapod for just a few minutes will jump at the chance of owning one.
“When I lived in my floating house in Toronto, every single person that came over to visit fell in love with the place,” he says.
“So all I need to do is to get people to step on board a Seapod for five minutes. The experience will just blow your mind. It’s really incredible.”
But what about practicalities such as buying groceries, as well as traveling back and forth from the pod to the mainland?
According to Romundt, customized aerial delivery drones are to be used to deliver items such as food and medicine, as well as “everyday smaller items.”
For larger deliveries, there’s a separate autonomous vessel, which will also function as an ocean recycling vessel, collecting garbage and debris in order to keep the surrounding area clean.

‘Eco-restorative homes’

The pods are to be "built and managed in harmony with the surrounding area."

The pods are to be “built and managed in harmony with the surrounding area.”
Ocean Builders
Residents and visitors can be transported to and from the SeaPod via dinghy boats, jet skis, local water taxis, and/or their own boats or vessels.
And although they certainly seem to be geared towards those with a more minimalist approach, there’s a storage area measuring 1,250 square feet inside.
With a focus on sustainability, the pods have been devised “to benefit the surrounding environment” and provide “a natural habitat for ocean life to occupy and thrive.”
“We’re trying to build and design a home that is good for the environment, and doesn’t harm the environment,” explains Romundt.
“And we’re always trying to innovate and to find ways to do that in an even better way. We’re not perfect right now, but we’re trying to get better and better all the time.”
The first completed pods are to be revealed online in late September, and potential buyers will be able to go and view them for themselves soon after.
“People have been trying to buy them for years,” Romundt says, explaining that the Ocean Builders team decided not to take deposits until buyers could actually see the pods in real life.

‘Massive undertaking’

The SeaPod provides 833 square feet (73 square meters) spread across three and a half levels.

The SeaPod provides 833 square feet (73 square meters) spread across three and a half levels.
Ocean Builders
“This is something so new. And there are so many real estate things that people put money into which never actually happen.
“We didn’t want to take deposits until people could actually come down and set foot on a pod. So I’m excited that we’re finally at that point.”
“This is a massive undertaking. I wanted to have it done two years ago. But to have it done in only three and a half years is pretty amazing.”
Those who snap up one of the first 100 Ocean Builders pods will be able to move in by the end of 2023, providing everything goes to plan.
Production is scheduled to begin on a further 1,000 pods by 2024.

Nederlandse architect Koen Olthuis ontwerpt Sea Pods

By Ella Vermeulen

Een pod boven zee, daar hebben we toch wat vragen over.

Jachten zijn zó 2021, trendsetters denken al druk na over nieuwe interactie met de zee. Een van hen is de Nederlandse architect Koen Olthuis die voor Ocean Builders SeaPods ontwierp als ‘s werelds eerste ‘eco-restorative floating homes’. Wat heerlijke vaagtaal is voor: ‘Hoe dan?!’

Olthuis ontwierp drie pods: de SeaPod voor leven op het water, de GreenPod voor op het land en de EcoPod als milieuvriendelijk alternatief. Bij die laatste twee kun je je vast wel iets voorstellen, de SeaPod moet iets doen aan de groeiende vraag naar huizen aan de kust #oceanfrontliving

Elke pod, volmaakt voor zelfisolatie in tijden van pandemieën, is zo’n elf meter hoog, bevindt zich zo’n 2,5 meter boven de waterspiegel en is goed beschouwd een enorme dobber.

Hij biedt zo’n 44 vierkante meter woonruimte op drie halve etages, dit is de ‘water patio’. Verder heb je een slaapkamer, een woonkamer…

… een keuken, een badkamer (wc-papier behoort tot het verleden, je spoelt je schoon, de grote boodschap wordt verbrandt en met die warmte wordt weer water verwarmd – alles is op duurzaamheid gericht) en een opslagruimte.

De eigenaar krijgt een smartring om de high techy-tech mee te bedienen, drones leveren boodschappen af.

In de douche (het is meer een compacte, complete spa) zit een klimwand om mee op het dak te komen, je dient dus wel behoorlijk fit te zijn om je boodschappen op te pikken.

De ontwerpers noemen dit ‘a fun and unique way to get to the roof’. Misschien dat de drone ook op het plateau beneden kan landen, voor wie niet klautervaardig is? Plus: hoe kom je met die doos beneden als je je handen nodig hebt op die klimwand? Zo. Veel. Vragen!

Hoewel de pods op de meeste tekeningen in zee liggen, zie je op andere schetsen onderaan toch een klein plateau om op te kunnen stappen voor je de trap naar boven neemt door de schacht. Hoe je er komt is ook niet duidelijk, vermoedelijk met een e-tender, al dan niet zelfvarend.

De onderkant biedt ‘een natuurlijke habitat voor het zeeleven’. De pods – ze worden gebouwd in Panama – zijn vanaf september te koop vanaf 295.000 dollar tot 1,5 miljoen dollar.

Het is een prachtig concept, maar niet duidelijk is hoe de megadobber zich houdt in zwaar weer. De stabiliteit wordt aangeprezen, maar je kunt je voorstellen dat de champagne uit je glas klotst bij een flinke storm. Plus: moet ie niet op een of andere manier geankerd worden, om te voorkomen die ie wegdrijft? En werkt het systeem ook nog als de onderkant onder de algen, kokkels en mosselen zit?

Ook niet helemaal duidelijk is wie dit soort dingen voor de kust zou willen hebben: mensen steigeren al over windparken op zee die amper te zien zijn vanaf de wal – wil je echt het collectieve uitzicht over zee verbreken met een paar bewoonde dobbers? Hoe dan ook: binnenkort vast te bewonderen, voor een rijke enclave ergens ter wereld. En kudos voor Koen, voor deze nieuwe Nederlandse kijk op leven met/op het water!

click here for source website

Seasteading: il futuro è vivere come un baccello nel mare

By Paola Piacenza
IO Donna

Sono i nuovi pionieri. Ma questa volta la frontiera che vogliono conquistare è liquida e le case, ipertecnologiche ed ecosostenibili, sono su palafitte. Per i seguaci della filosofia nata in America negli anni ’80, un nuovo capitolo si sta per scrivere nelle acque panamensi. Per chi vuole prenotare, meglio pagare in Bitcoin

La desalinizzazione delle acque, il giardino di coralli artificiali, l’alimentazione a pannelli solari e le colture idroponiche sono dettagli. Significativi, ma dettagli. La vera novità nel progetto che sta prendendo forma nelle acque territoriali panamensi a firma Ocean Builders è la visione del mondo (e del mare) che lo nutre.

Essere autosufficienti in mare aperto

All’origine c’era un’idea, e un movimento, nato negli anni ’80, sviluppato nei ’90, ora reso tangibile, chiamato Seasteading, dalla fusione di sea, mare, e homesteading, prendere possesso di una proprietà per viverci in maniera autosufficiente.

Nel rendering, due SeaPod sottocosta.

Finora lo sfruttamento di alcune piattaforme petrolifere o di navi da crociera abbandonate è tutto ciò che ha prodotto. Al più ambizioso dei progetti, la Freedom Ship, una barca lunga un miglio per 50 mila persone che alla fine degli anni ’90 avrebbe dovuto circumnavigare il mondo («Ci stanno ancora lavorando….») aveva preso parte anche il Ceo di Ocean Builders, Grant Romundt che, dall’Idaho, via zoom, racconta a iO Donna a che punto sono i lavori per la costruzione della fabbrica che produrrà i giganteschi “SeaPod”, i baccelli marini, unità di misura dei villaggi su palafitte che stanno per nascere al largo: La pandemia ci ha rallentato, ma non ci siamo mai fermati. La fabbrica ospiterà la più grande stampante 3D dell’America latina, in grado di realizzare un modulo in un week end.

L’acqua e gli architetti olandesi

Il primo prototipo di SeaPod, disegnato dagli ingegneri, era brutto, racconta Grant, che si definisce «un amante dell’acqua e della tecnologia». Perciò è stato coinvolto lo studio di architetti più all’avanguardia quando si tratta di costruire sull’acqua, gli olandesi di Waterstudio. Il loro motto è: “Il futuro sostenibile sta oltre il lungomare”. «Ho incontrato Koen Olthuis di Waterstudio a Singapore, e subito ci siamo messi a disegnare come due bambini». Il risultato sono le strutture che vi mostriamo nei rendering in questa pagina, «degne dei Jetsons», il cartoon di Hanna e Barbera – da noi erano I pronipoti – protagonista una famiglia del futuro. Nessun angolo vivo, tre piani attrezzati issati su un palo in grado di resistere al moto ondoso: «Nella versione da alto mare, i test sono stati fatti su onde di cinque metri, ma per ora lavoriamo sottocosta» spiega Grant.

Il flop thailandese

Così era stato in Thailandia, il capitolo precedente nella storia dei Sea Builders. Ma l’idea che una città galleggiante potesse sorgere al largo di Phuket e che, un giorno, i suoi residenti potessero reclamarne la sovranità aveva spaventato le autorità di Bangkok e l’ingegnere capo del progetto era stato costretto a levare le ancore in grande fretta. «Le novità spaventano» chiosa Grant. «Ma vivere sul mare è un’ambizione che l’uomo ha da sempre, simile a quella che spinse i pionieri verso l’America. Anche questa in fondo è la conquista di una frontiera, il mare è una finestra da spalancare, ricca di opportunità per chi ha spirito imprenditoriale. Potrebbe trattarsi di un cambiamento epocale. E noi, che disponiamo dei mezzi necessari per realizzarlo, siamo gli unici in questo momento a lavorarci».

Il bagno del SeaPod.

Vero, lo storico movimento che oggi fa riferimento al Seasteading Institute, alla nostra richiesta di intervista, nella persona della Development director Carly Jackson, ha risposto così: «Siamo una piccola organizzazione no profit, non intendiamo progettare e costruire sistemi da soli. Il nostro ruolo è stato tradizionalmente quello di ricercatori e non abbiamo ingegneri nel nostro personale». Ocean Builders tra i propri finanziatori, in compenso, ha Rüdiger Koch, un ingegnere aerospaziale tedesco in pensione che, ci spiega Grant, «punta a esplorazioni ancora più radicali»: per Koch le piattaforme di seasteading rappresentano il perfetto trampolino per il progetto di “launch loop”, un cavo per lanciare, letteralmente, oggetti nello spazio.

Alla portata dell’americano medio

I talenti visionari non mancano, ma nemmeno il senso degli affari fa difetto. Il sito dei Sea Builders offre numerose opzioni di acquisto, affitto o multiproprietà (i Bitcoin sono il mezzo di pagamento preferito, «ma accettiamo anche versamenti via Paypal, e puntiamo, dopo i primi tempi, ad abbattere i costi fino a 195 mila dollari per un modulo, un prezzo alla portata dell’americano medio» spiega Grant).

La cucina, con vista, del SeaPod.

Per essere uno cui non manca il senso pratico e che sta scommettendo su un’idea di futuro da film di fantascienza, Grant però esita a delineare il tipo di società che ha in mente per gli abitanti dei SeaPod. «Persone diverse sono attratte dal progetto per ragioni diverse. Alcuni apprezzano l’aspetto libertario (tra i fondatori del movimento c’era Patri Friedman, anarco-capitalista e nipote del premio Nobel per l’economia, Milton Friedman, ndr). Altri vi hanno visto un’opportunità dopo che in alcuni Paesi il lockdown ha rivelato aspetti autoritari». Per ora, sostiene, loro puntano soprattutto allo sfruttamento turistico: «Decidere di vivere sul mare a tempo pieno è un grande passo, meglio andare per gradi». Chi si occuperà di mantenere l’ordine, dare le linee della governance (o almeno il regolamento di condominio), fornire i servizi essenziali è ancora da definire. E se non dovesse funzionare? «Il nostro sarà diverso da un villaggio terrestre dove le case sono piantate nel terreno. Se costruisci sull’acqua ogni aspetto della vita comunitaria si presta alla sperimentazione. Una comunità può organizzare la raccolta dei rifiuti coi droni, un’altra con le barche. Se penso alla vostra Venezia… credo proprio che potremmo darvi una mano».

click here for pdf

click here for source website

Back To Top