An innovative new “floating igloo” concept can help to protect endangered penguins and slow the melting of polar ice in Antarctica, according to the architect who dreamed up the design.

The igloo structure is split into two parts, one of which is under water and the above. The “upper structures provide penguins with man-made habitats for breeding, along with enough space for a waddle to keep eggs warm”, the Daily Mail reports.

“The lower igloo features crater-like holes that mimic a sea sponge and is connected to a submerged swinging pendulum.”

As waves move this pendulum, it produces electricity to cool the surrounding ice and help prevent the melting of the frozen sheets on which penguins live and breed. 

The concept, called the Penguin Protection System, is the brainchild of Iranian architect Sajjad Navidi. In a post on his Instagram page, he writes: “This system is independent in nature and, when needed, smartly separates and moves towards [the penguins] by identifying melting ice areas.”

If funding can be secured for a mass rollout of the igloos, Navidi’s system could help save emperor penguins from extinction. A 2019 study by the Massachusetts- based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) found that a warming climate could see the species wiped out within decades.

“If global climate keeps warming at the current rate, we expect emperor penguins in Antarctica to experience an 86% decline by the year 2100,” said seabird ecologist Stephanie Jenouvrier, who led the study. “At that point, it is very unlikely for them to bounce back.”

According to the Financial Times, “the struggle of Antarctica’s animals to adapt to global warming holds lessons for us all”. 

Antarctica is home to 70% of the world’s fresh water, and 90% of its ice – and if the continent melted completely, global sea levels could rise by 60 metres.