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Aerial view of IJburg, Amsterdam.
Flickr / Andrea (flygirl2)
Environment

Amsterdam Is Making Eco-Islands Filled With Affordable Housing

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Sea level rise resulting from climate change poses a threat to coastal communities globally. Amsterdam’s approach to building more equitable and resilient communities on the water offers a glimpse of a potential solution. You can join us in taking action on this issue here.

Amsterdam is a building an island that will offer affordable housing with a remarkably low carbon footprint, CityLab reports. Centrumeiland, or “Center Island,” will be the seventh island built in the city’s IJburg Archipelago — a network of artificial islands 15 minutes by streetcar from the city-center.

First surfacing above the waterline in 2015, Centrumeiland was initially used as a site for art installation. It is now beginning to take shape as a residential island. Centrumeiland is expected to hold 1,200 homes.

Development on Centrumeiland — designed to be flood resilient — is intended to cause minimal environmental harm and to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The island will not be connected to natural gas lines. Instead, homes will be connected to a district heating system and powered by heat pumps — part of Amsterdam’s citywide goal to end use of home boilers by 2050.  Because they move heat rather than generate heat, pumps are an energy-efficient and cost-effective alternative to furnaces and air conditioners. To reduce fuel and water use, dwellings will also be equipped with solar panels and rainwater-harvesting tanks.

Take Action: Ensure All Communities Can Withstand Climate Disaster

Part of Europe’s most densely populated country, Amsterdam has had little room to grow. Despite a lack of undeveloped land and green space, the city is utilizing its proximity to water as an asset.

IJmeer Lake, a shallow water body, is now the site of some of the city’s most innovative architecture. To house an overflowing population, Amsterdam decided to create the chain of islands known as the IJburg. Once constructed, the 10 islands will house around 45,000 people.

Beginning in 1997, six of the 10 planned islands built over IJmeer Lake have been made using the “pancake method,” writes the Architects Newspaper. Sand is sprayed through porous screens, which harden and are stacked on top of each other until an island emerges six-and-a-half feet above the waterline. Homes constructed on these man-made islands are complemented by surrounding floating houses.

Read More: 6 Things That Could Happen if Sea Levels Rise by 11 Feet This Century

Water-based development is being increasingly used as a solution for coastal cities struggling to accommodate growing populations, demand for affordable housing, and impending damage of sea-level rise. Floating houses have adaptable foundations that rest on solid ground and float when necessary. As weather events become more severe across the globe, more people may be living in amphibious homes.

In New York City, a predicted 6-foot sea-level rise threatens to submerge the coastal edges of the five boroughs by 2100, reports New York magazine. South Florida is also at severe risk with sea level expected to rise 15 inches by 2045.

While all people living in coastal communities will be impacted by sea-level rise, those living in poverty are more vulnerable to climate events.

This pattern is visible across the US and globally. The New Yorker reports that in Miami, low-income communities of color in Liberty City and Little Haiti are facing “climate-gentrification,” displacement catalyzed by sea level rise. The Marshall Islands, located in the Pacific — where about 30% of the population lives below “basic-needs income line” — could be uninhabitable within decades.