Buoyant buildings: Modular design relies on cored composites

Arquitectura en el Agua’s (AEEA, Santa Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Islands) architects and engineers convert for metal to composites for their floating modular structures for marinas, harbors, restaurants, hotels and leisure centers.

Arquitectura en el Agua’s (AEEA, Santa Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Islands) architects and engineers design and construct floating modular structures for marinas, harbors, restaurants, hotels and leisure centers. The flotation concept was envisioned by company founder/CEO Antonio Arderíus for a new marina conceived by a client faced with limited land area. Since then, floating modules have been built to customer-specified sizes using aluminum and other metals, and reportedly can be adapted to uses as diverse as temporary concert stages and hospital buildings erected after natural disasters. 

Interested in the possibilities of composite solutions, AEEA contracted with Composites Consulting Group (CCG, Laholm, Sweden) for a preliminary feasibility study. CCG carried out initial tests on floating designs that incorporated a variety of core materials supplied by sister company DIAB. CCG senior engineer Jose Cristos describes the proposed composite design as octagonal, flat-bottomed pontoons, essentially small hulls with flat upper decks. Similar to boat hulls, they are fabricated as single parts in one-piece molds. The hulls support cored sandwich panel bulkheads on laminated frames. Multiple pontoons are joined to support larger structures.

Panel faceskins feature a marine-grade, highly UV-resistant gel coat backed by fiberglass infused with either isophthalic polyester or vinyl ester resin and cored with DIAB Divinycell P or H foam. Says Cristos, “The support deck spreads loads onto the bottom pontoon structure, which creates independent, watertight volumes inside for extra safety. The sandwich panel concept provides the required stiffness to cope with the demanding loads imposed by the sea environment as well as service loads.” Pontoon hulls and decks are adhesively bonded together, eliminating the risk of corrosion with metal fasteners. 

The AEEA composite solution offers rapid design and installation, and its modular design facilitates easy reconstruction or expansion to meet changing demands. Further, the composites minimize environmental impact in protected marine areas.  

Among other projects, the concept was used in support of an extension of the Nautical Club (Santander, Spain) to provide dock space for the more than 1,400 sailors and 1,000 boats from 80 nations in attendance at the 2014 Sailing World Championships. 

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