Schopfer's initial efforts have focused on the platform, which serves as the structure's foundation. "I've invented a floating platform system," he says, adding that he is in discussions with Arup to work on the engineering. He believes it can support up to 20 stories and says he'll have a small prototype platform in the water by next year.

"We were contacted [about the latest version of the project] by two potential clients," says Schopfer. "There are financial partners involved. At the end of this year, it will be incorporated and funded."

The Seasteading Institute, San Francisco, is leading a separate effort to develop floating communities. The institute's aim is to seek political independence or autonomy by locating the project off a host nation's shoreline. "I'm cautiously optimistic about reaching an agreement with a host nation," says Randolph Hencken, the institute's executive director, but he would not identify which nation.

Seasteading hired Dutch marine engineering firm Delta Sync "to do our first project implementation plan," says Hencken. The floating structures will rest on clusters of linked square or hexagonal concrete modular platforms, measuring 50 ft along each side. Hencken says that, this month, he's testing a scale model of the square platform for wave conditions in a towing tank at the School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering at the University of New Orleans. Seasteading's initial structures will be designed for groups of about 300 people.

Asteroid Mining

Planetary Resources Inc. announced that Bechtel joined its group of investors in April 2013 and is a collaborative partner in a long-term mission to mine near-Earth asteroids for valuable raw materials. Founded in 2009, the group is developing low-cost, robotic exploration technologies.

Scientists discover asteroids at a rate of about 1,000 a year, including many whose orbits bring them near the Earth. The objects are classified into three types: S-type, a mix of rock and minerals; C-type, thought to be rich in water and which can be broken down to make rocket fuel; and X-type, thought to be nearly pure metal, including precious metals, such as platinum. Planetary Resources is evaluating candidates of the second and third type.

The enterprise's robotic space-exploration program is to begin with a series of space-telescope missions to identify the most commercially viable, near-Earth asteroids. The company says its financial backers include Google CEO Larry Page and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt as well as Ross Perot Jr., chairman of Hillwood and The Perot Group. Four companies are studying asteroid-capture systems, including Jacobs Engineering, Houston, and Altius Space Machines, Louisville, Colo.

‘SkyCycle’ network

With bicycle use in London increasing by 70% in a decade, there is pressure to create safe routes. While Mayor Boris Johnson promotes dedicated lanes in existing roads, more adventurous schemes have emerged.

One scheme, promoted by London-based Exterior Architecture Ltd. and backed by architect Sir Norman Foster, calls for 20-meter-wide cycle decks running above 220 kilometers of the city's railroads. Numerous routes, each with a 12,000-cyclists-per-hour capacity, would form the estimated $14-billion SkyCycle network.

Officials have been cool on the idea, says Sam Martin, managing director for Exterior. They see the scheme as merely a cycling amenity; however, its true value would be in increasing total transportation capacity, obviating the need for investment elsewhere, he says. Martin continues to push the scheme in London and is encouraged by interest from Chicago, Singapore and elsewhere, he says.

Vertical Farming and Floating Farms