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Lagoon Living

I am really enjoying the possibility of Giant Tidal Lagoons being created in the UK to generate power and it has inspired us at Envelope Architects Ltd to consider what other contribution the roll out could make. The UK has the second highest tidal range in the world and Swansea Bay, Wales’ ‘second city’ have permission to trial a huge engineering feat. This is thanks to the foresight and tenacity of Tidal Lagoon PowerCEO Mark Shorrock and his team who have been developing the concept of ‘how to harness natural power from the rise and fall of the tides, sustainably and at scale’since 2011. As well as Swansea, a “fleet” of five other lagoons around the coast of Wales, Somerset and Cumbria are envisaged, generating enough power for 30% of the UK’s homes. This low carbon power generation would add to the UK’s Energy Source mix as well as a whole host of other benefits that include regeneration, promoting biodiversity and conservation initiatives. This is all very clever thinking, but are they missing a trick with this concept?

Take the Swansea lagoon project for example, the sea defence wall could contain 11.5 sq km of sea. The lagoon’s high tide water level is retained until the sea level achieves low tide. The head of water is then released through under water turbines generating electricity. The gates are shut until the sea level becomes higher than the lagoon. At the optimum water level difference the gates are opened and the turbines run again (but in the opposite direction).

As we are all aware there is a housing crisis and the construction industry cannot cope with the demand – so why not kick start the boat building industry on Parametric houseboat manufacture? There is such limited space in the UK currently, where are the hundreds of thousands of dwellings going to be located? Why couldn’t Swansea and the other lagoon destinations manufacture their own houseboats, and float them into the calm and sheltered moorings? Tidal Lagoon Power‘s numerous planned Lagoon projects would seriously make a difference in resolving the housing crisis. By my simple calculations I could imagine that 10,000 new homes could be contained within the Swansea Lagoon alone. Swansea and Cardiff could then increase their population by 10% without consuming the green belt around the cities.

The Lagoon could also be a sheltered place to harvest fish and sea vegetables – both of which can extend our life expectancy. The English Channel has been over fished, and more fish are farmed in rather restrictive floating compounds which isn’t ideal (when considering the fish waste is not well distributed). Again by my loose calculations the lagoon could supply over 200 tonnes of Free-range fish per annum which is more than enough to feed the correct quota of residents of the lagoon.

The lagooned cities could also boost the tourist industry, just look how popular Venice is. The 10,000 homes will need floating markets, cluster work hamlets and perhaps a range of new electric autonomous amphibious vehicles. I am a fan of amphibious products the Manta concept vehicle by Belgian David Cardoso Loureiro for example, perhaps the lagoon project would boost demand and they could be available under shared ownership.

What is interesting is that the Crown Estates own the first twelve miles from our shoreline out to sea. If they require no cost to moor in the lagoon then these houses could be deemed ‘affordable’. The cost to move house boats to the Mediterranean Sea for the Winter season is not that expensive – so this might interest our retired population looking to downsize but desiring a change of scene in their latter years.

I also wonder if the sea defence walls are working hard enough in the visuals that have been generated to date, this underpins again Envelope Architects’s interest in making the most of opportunities of ‘life aquatic’ like the Dutch and Danish and responding to Climate Change.

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