The Discovery Channel has this amazing series named Mega Structures, where they cover construction projects with the most extreme engineering challenges. I happened to catch the series on the Kansai International Airport in Japan, built entirely on a man-made island filled in with debris from a nearby mountain, in the middle of Osaka Bay. I was instantly fascinated and started looking for examples of these occurrences in my part of the world. The “Land Filling” process is a centuries old practice and is a great way to create land for human activity, where there otherwise would be a shortage.
Case in point, it turns out all of Battery Park City in New York was made entirely of land that was infilled to artificially expand the downtown Manhattan shoreline. While BPC is just a fraction of the size of lower manhattan (at .207 miles), it has allowed NYC to pick up another 13,000 residents (as per 2010 Census) and growing due to its proximity to the World Trade Center and surrounding financial and economic hub of lower Manhattan.
Link to the map showing the landfill of BPC is below:
BPC started as a concept back in the 1960’s and was developed and funded over various Mayoral administrations for residential and commercial development. The LandFill itself was completed in the 1970’s, with the first residential developments going up in the late 1980’s as the first World Financial Center was being constructed.
Although Battery Park City has now developed every available plot of land, landlords in this neighborhood have to pay a land lease to the Battery Park City Authority, as the land fill that the buildings stand on are fully owned and managed by this agency.
As we think of the challenges that our planet and our species will face in coming generations with scarcity of land and overpopulation, it is somewhat relieving to know that we’ve successfully developed a method to create new land to meet our agricultural and housing needs.
We monitor and learn better methods of filling land by evaluating the effects of extreme weather–earthquakes, typhoons, hurricanes–like the effect of super storm Sandy on lower Manhattan, or the effects of earthquakes on the Kansai Airport. Leading to more efficient engineering on future reclaimed land projects, but most importantly more supply of fabulous shoreline real estate that we can invest in with more confidence!