Study Duration: 2014-2020
This case study is for landscape architects, engineers, and asset owners, who would like to understand how ECOncrete®’s technologies are integrated into projects and deliver high ecological performance. While ECOncrete’s technology can be applied to any marine concrete, this installation was a pilot project to prove the structural and ecological viability of ECOncrete’s seawall. Since this project, ECOncrete has provided the technology for ecological seawalls for ports, marinas, land reclamations, urban waterfronts, and more.
Problem & Solution
In our marine environment, we build 70% of infrastructures from concrete. While it’s strong and versatile, this material is detrimental to life underwater, leaving our waterfront assets, ecosystems, and communities vulnerable to a changing climate. Concrete’s underwater impacts are a consequence of three design features: a toxic chemical composition and smooth surface textures discourage marine life from growing on the structure, resulting in less local biodiversity and more invasive species. Flat-plane designs provide little shelter and few growth points for marine biology, resulting in infrastructure that stays lifeless for decades. These design failures combine to create infrastructure with high environmental penalty costs, higher maintenance needs, and lower resilience.
ECOncrete resolves these three features with a patented admix, texture agents, and molds proven to improve the structural and ecological performance of concrete. The admixture seals and strengthens concrete by up to 10%, while a combination of texture agents, liners, and molds bring high surface complexity and design features. ECOncrete’s technology enables a rich layer of marine life, like oysters, tubeworms, and corals to grow, thereby generating an active carbon sink and biodiverse ecosystem, while creating structural benefits, such as greater strength and durability. The technology meets industry standards, is flexibly sourced, and can be easily integrated into any concrete marine infrastructure.
Herzliya Marina is the largest marina in the Eastern Mediterranean. It focuses on sustainability and was one of the first marinas in Israel to receive the “Blue Flag” eco-label from the Foundation for Environmental Education. In keeping with the marina’s focus on environmentally-sensitive solutions, they installed four highly textured ECOncrete seawalls to encourage diverse marine life. The seawall panels can retrofit an existing seawall or construct a new, load-bearing wall. The seawall, like any ECOncrete solution, supports a wide array of biodiversity critical for a healthy marine system, and can be adapted to promote specific species of conservational value.
The study compared ECOncrete’s seawall units to the marina’s existing Portland cement seawall. Immediately after the installation of ECOncrete’s seawall, a baseline survey of the pre-existing seawall’s marine life was conducted. Then, an area within a 30×30 cm stainless steel frame, called a quadrat, was scraped clean of life and used as a control for the study.
Twenty-two months post-installation, ECOncrete’s seawall units presented higher biodiversity than the baseline survey of the traditional seawalls. They were covered with a variety of invertebrates: sponges, oysters, bivalves, bryozoans, sessile tube worms, colonial tunicates, as well as coralline algae. In contrast, the marina seawall control plot showed lower biodiversity than the baseline survey.
Most of the dominant organisms on ECOncrete’s seawall units were species that cement their calcitic skeletons onto the concrete. These creatures create an additional layer of protection from hydrodynamic forces and chloride penetration, thus leading to reduced maintenance costs and a more durable seawall. This protective layer also has an additional benefit: when the organisms create their shells, they draw carbon dioxide from the water, creating an active carbon sink. When growing on a one-kilometer-long by seven-meter-high seawall, for example, the calcitic organisms on ECOncrete’s technology can generate a carbon sink equivalent to 100 trees every year. Some of these calcitic organisms are filter feeders, which to positively contribute to water quality.