Need a car park but nowhere to build it? Want to build a shopping centre but no land available? The solution: take to the water. Emergo-Islands has opened the door to working, parking, shopping and walking in the park on a floating island.

Cities worldwide are under mounting pressure. Nowhere is this more evident than in India. With more than 1.2 billion inhabitants, India is home to one-sixth of the global population. It is the world’s second most populous country. One‑third of all Indians live in urban areas and this figure will rise to fifty percent in 2050.

So where are all of these people supposed to work, relax, shop and park their cars? Urban planners all over the world are grappling with this very question. Traditional spatial planning alone is no longer enough to solve the problem. There is a huge need for innovative, sustainable and flexible solutions. Enter Emergo-Islands, the smart response to the demand for space that major cities are trying to find.

Three internationally operating companies joined forces to develop Emergo-Islands. They are RHDHV (engineering), Emergo (development) and KCAP (design). With their shared Dutch background of ‘fighting water’, they have jointly developed a movable and completely buoyant island. The island can be moved and if necessary it can be adapted to new developments later on in its lifecycle.

No matter whether harbours, lakes, ponds or rivers are the location, the islands can be built anywhere. They are instantly ready to meet urban needs for amenities like parks, shopping centres or parking facilities. So the floating island enriches the everyday life of the local population and boosts the local economy.

Walking on water is a unique way of creating new urban spaces. It helps to ensure a flourishing future for the urban environment.

Five basic principles were applied when designing Emergo-Islands. Firstly, it had to be possible to combine functions that reinforce both each other and the surroundings. Car parking, green space, sports, culture and leisure functions can be integrated in this concept.

Inspired by projects like the High Line in New York and the Promenade plantée in Paris, a green park is an integral part of the island concept. The island must also be capable of responding to the needs of the local community by including amenities like an ice rink, swimming pool, athletics track or open‑air theatre.

Han van den Born (KCAP) stresses the importance of harmonising the functions. “The island will become a wonderful urban icon because it solves parking problems and at the same time adds green space to the human environment. The connection of the island to the onshore districts is an important aspect. It ensures that the island will have a positive impact on the community.”

The second design principle was that the island had to be climate-proof. Regardless of weather conditions and water level differences, the island must be capable of functioning optimally.

The next factor pivotal to the design was flexibility. The island has to be movable, reusable and adaptable. Rapid (market) developments have triggered a growing need for flexibility. If necessary the island can be moved to a different location. Furthermore, operational profitability is ensured by the fact that volumes and functions can easily be adapted to changing circumstances.

Self-sufficiency and sustainability were other key factors for designers. Adding extra facilities must allow the island to meet its own energy and water requirements. The park-like landscape helps reduce particulate matter and CO2.

The final matter that played a role in the design was cost-efficiency. The water serves as the foundation for the ground level. The dividable modular structures are manufactured in a factory, using recyclable mono-materials wherever possible.

Ground level / 540pp


First level / 670pp

Park level / 15.500m2

Financial plan

A strict financial plan has been set down for the plan development of Emergo‑Islands. The challenge is to create a floating parking facility combined with a park, with normal local market costs and revenues. On the cost side, there will be diligent control of investment costs, operating costs and the extremely short construction time.

On the revenue side, it was decided to apply a depreciation term of 30 years or longer, with an adequate degree of occupancy. This can be achieved by building to meet the precise demand that exists.

This method of financial engineering produces a profitable project, giving the owner fast and prolonged control over his returns by adapting the volume to the degree of occupancy and functions. And if the need arises, the island can easily be moved to another location.

Spatial design

The circular shape of the floating floor and superstructure are based on structural and stability considerations and also on the need to limit the island’s height. An island that is not obtrusively high is easier to integrate into the surroundings.

A lightweight two-storey superstructure can be constructed on the outer side of the floating floor. This is where the car park will be built.

The spacious inner area on the floating floor provides space for various other functions such as sports fields, an ice rink, an open-air theatre or a swimming pool. The island’s diameter can vary from 60 to 250 metres. The superstructure can consist of one or two levels. Limiting the number of floors allows easy access to the surrounding area and also makes the park located above easy to reach.

Section Floating Park

Engineering design


The floating Emergo-Island will be positioned adjacent to the urban area. It will float on water that is not too deep, in many cases in artificial water bodies such as disused harbour basins. Such basins are typically connected directly to open sea and thus subject to tidal effects. Minimizing the draught of the floating body is therefore a precondition. With that in mind, both the floating body and its superstructure will be designed to be as lightweight as possible.

We are also pursuing environment-friendliness and sustainability. For that reason it was decided to use EPS (expanded polystyrene) as the basis for the floating body. EPS consists of a single material, making it ideal for recycling. Moisture does not adversely affect EPS. The material is neutral, does not leach and does not degrade. A non-toxic coating prevents impairment by insects, animals and chemical substances.

The basic EPS structure consists of a grid of concrete girders to ensure cohesion and a concrete floor as a foundation for the superstructure. Construction occurs directly on the water. The island cannot sink, exhibits considerable buoyancy and requires little if any maintenance.

This system is well-suited to construction in separate sections that are joined together later. This also allows the sections to be disconnected and rearranged to adapt the island to changed requirements.

Fibreglass composite is used to create a light but strong floor structure. The floors are no less than 30 times lighter than concrete and thus ensure a very lightweight superstructure. The floor slabs instantly bridge the complete width of a car park layout (15 to 22 m). The synthetic floor slabs are made by means of a pultrusion process. This involves pulling polyester resins through a heated mould and adding glass fibres at the same time. The mould shapes the desired profile, which hardens after having been heated. The slab width varies between 0.4 and 1.0 m.

The floor slabs are 40 mm thick and weigh 18 kg/m². A hard-wearing coating is applied to the top side to obtain the required slip resistance. An advantage of the lightweight slabs is that the substructure (the floating body) requires less draught. What’s more, there is no need for heavy‑duty fixation to the substructure in many cases. Transportation and handling of the slabs at the building site are also far easier compared with heavy materials.

To stop the lightweight floor slabs from shifting, they are fixed to HE140A beams and connected to each other by specially developed clamps, also with a view to preventing water from leaking to the levels below.

Besides the lightweight floors, this is a modular concept so the car park can be built quickly. The modular concept is characterised by features including a single type of column and two types of floor beams. This simplifies logistics, both for transportation and for assembly at the building site. Being completely modular, the system can be easily disassembled, which also enables adaptations later on using the same parts.

All materials are recyclable and connected to each other by removable (bolted) connections. By using this industrial, flexible and sustainable method of construction, it is possible to complete building projects in an extremely short timeframe. As the entire structure floats on water, it rises automatically with the water level at locations outside flood defences, which can be found at countless places in the world.

Catalyst for floating construction

Rotterdam and other cities have plans for the construction of floating neighbourhoods where people will live, shop, work and spend their leisure time on the water. Floating construction looks set to become a global solution of choice in the 21st century.

Emergo-Islands adds momentum to the concept of floating construction.

Sustainable technology

The concept’s sustainability stems from the materials used, the flexibility it offers (movable and adaptable) and the configuration. The structure is heated and cooled using solar energy and surface water, for example. There are several climate zones. Energy is used only when needed at any particular time. The island will meet its own energy needs. It will also treat its own sewage. What remains can be used for irrigation of the park or discharged into the surface water.