Shimizu Corp is no stranger to dreaming up concepts that highlight possibilities in the future. Its most recent work is called Ocean Spiral, an underwater city that will draw energy from the seabed and support 5,000 people.
Ocean Spiral was borne out of the idea to capitalize on the immense possibilities the deep sea holds, accommodating human life in response to rising sea levels that threaten communities on land. At the scale it is envisioned, it is projected to take around five years to build and will cost around $25 billion.
Functioning as an underwater city, it will feature business and residential zones, as well as commercial areas and hotels to accommodate tourists. These zones will be housed in a floating sphere a third of a mile in diameter, connected to a spiral path 9 miles in length that stretches to the ocean floor and starts about a mile from the ocean's surface.
As for the rest of the technologies that would be needed to sustain life below the ocean's surface, Shimizu officials are of the belief that everything will be ready within 15 years. This means that if everything goes according to plan, Ocean Spiral will be very much real by 2030.
So far, plans for Ocean Spiral details an eco-friendly underwater city that runs on energy derived from what is called an "earth factory" located on the ocean's floor. Using microorganisms, the factory will convert carbon dioxide into methane, a process complemented by power generators situated along Ocean Spiral. These generators, in turn, will harness differences in temperature in seawater to produce additional energy, a process referred to as ocean thermal energy conversion. For the residential zones, seawater will be desalinated using hydraulic pressure.
While Shimizu has been associated with dream concepts, company spokesperson Hideo Imamura said that Ocean Spiral is a real goal and not simply a pipe dream.
"The Astro Boy cartoon character had a mobile phone long before they were actually invented - in the same way, the technology and knowhow we need for this project will become available," he adds.
To ensure Ocean Spiral's success, Shimizu is collaborating with experts from Tokyo University, energy firms and government ministries. It also hopes to secure funding from both private and government entities.
Other undersea projects that came before the Ocean Spiral include the Poseidon Undersea Resort in Katafinga Island in Fiji and the Hydropolis in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Poseidon has yet to open its doors (it was supposed to launch in 2008) while the Hydropolis project has already been shelved.