Image Credit: Ekaterina Kondratova/Shutterstock.com
The adverse effect that human activity is having on the planet is becoming more apparent each day. Ecological damage is one of the most pressing issues that world leaders and companies seek to address at the moment. Finding sustainable solutions for marine and coastal infrastructure is one issue that is of particular concern to governments and companies worldwide. Luckily, there are companies providing these solutions at the moment, and one of them is ECOncrete.
Problems with Coastal Infrastructure
It is estimated that around 40% of the world's population lives within 100 km of a coastline, and this is predicted to grow further over the coming years.
Three billion people worldwide rely on marine and coastal ecosystems for food, building materials, and agricultural and recreation areas. This leaves a significant and growing proportion of humans vulnerable to intensifying climate-change-related extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and erosion.
Human activity has caused damage to marine ecosystems. Aside from the loss of biodiversity, some of these ecosystems provide a degree of flood defense and are efficient carbon sinks. Tourism, land reclamation, industrial pollution, plastics, groundwater runoff, dredging, and many other factors have all caused seemingly irreversible harm. This is a situation that cannot continue as the planet warms and the population grows.
The production of concrete is problematic and, while it is a cheap and easily understood material, it is a contributing factor to climate change. Each year, around 4 billion tons of concrete is produced, accounting for 8% of total global carbon emissions and 2.8 billion tons of CO2 annually. To put things into perspective, 3 tons of concrete is used every year for every person living on Earth.
The use of traditional concrete is commonplace, and the world's coastlines are becoming increasingly greyer rather than green. The solution lies in using eco-friendly concrete solutions for marine infrastructure, which can be used to protect coastlines and encourage biodiversity.
ECOncrete's Greener Concrete Marine and Coastal Infrastructure Solutions
ECOncrete was founded in 2012 by marine biologists Dr Ido Sella and Dr Shimrit Perkol-Finkel. The company's core mission is to provide solutions that protect and rejuvenate coastlines and marine ecosystems while providing superior protection for coastal communities. At the core of the company is its green and sustainable bio-enhancing admix.
The benefits of this innovative concrete admix include the reduction in chlorine permeability, stronger compression forces in the concrete, and the reduction in the amount of Portland cement in the mix. This makes for a robust and durable end-product that significantly reduces the product/project's CO2 footprint and is suited for specific environmental and structural needs.
Thanks to advanced casting technologies and design, ECOncrete's products create surface textures and microenvironments that mimic natural features such as rock and coral. This encourages the growth of intertidal ecosystem engineers such as oysters and molluscs. This increases habitat value, adds strength, reduces the need for maintenance, and extends the project's service life due to improved bioprotection.
Traditional concrete is alkaline, with a pH value of 12-13, which is not favorable for colonization by most marine life. Seawater has a pH of 8, which is suitable for marine organisms. Eco-engineered concrete commonly has a surface pH of 9-10, making it much more ideal for marine organisms to flourish.
ECOncrete's Marine Infrastructure Solutions
The company's sustainable concrete solutions can be installed in new coastal projects or retrofitted to existing infrastructure. Some of these products include:
- Ecological armoring units – Modulae building blocks of marine infrastructure, which provide superior coastal defense against hydrodynamic forces. They additionally create marine habitats and increase the diversity of species while reducing the influence of invasive species.
- Tide pools – ECOncrete's easily installable tide pools mimic natural intertidal areas. They can be integrated with a breakwater or can be used to enhance a shoreline biologically. They create water retaining elements which mimic naturally occurring rock pools. This increases local biodiversity and biological productivity.
- Marine mattresses – Articulated marine mattresses made of interlocking concrete blocks designed to provide shoreline stabilization and erosion control, protect infrastructure such as exposed underwater pipelines, and promote marine biodiversity. Easy to transport and can be fit to size for the project.
- Enhanced sea walls – Modular sea wall elements that can be retroactively and functionally integrated to fit any existing marine and coastal infrastructure. They support the growth of targeted marine organisms while leaving the structural and functional properties of the existing sea wall unaffected. This product strengthens the sea wall, reduces maintenance, and increases its life span by adding bioprotection.
- COASTALOCKTM – A high-performance interlocking armoring unit. This can be incorporated into breakwaters, riprap and revetments to replace stone or concrete armoring. It has all the added benefits of marine biodiversity enhancement as ECOncrete's other products.
Uses of ECOncrete's Products Worldwide
ECOncrete's products are already in use worldwide. The Herzliya Marina, one of the first in Israel to receive Blue Flag accreditation for its eco-friendly status, has included ECOncrete's products in its coastal defenses since 2014.
The product used was the company's seawall units. Monitoring was carried out over 22 months after the deployment of the new seawall units. At this point, the ECOncrete seawall units were packed with important structurally beneficial marine invertebrates such as oysters, sessile tube worms, bivalves, sponges, and coralline algae
Other diverse locations that have seen ECOncrete's products include the Port of Rotterdam, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, and Hong Kong.
As they are becoming more aware of just how much damage we are doing to the world's oceans, more countries turn to sustainable marine and coastal infrastructure. As one of the leading companies in this field with their eco-friendly concrete, ECOncrete is helping to drive the recovery of the oceans one block at a time.
References and Further Reading
ECOncrete – Homepage [Accessed online 16 April 2021] https://econcretetech.com
Econcretech.com – Seawall Units Herzaliya Marine Case Study [Accessed online 16 April 2021] https://econcretetech.com/seawall-units-herzliya-marina/
UN.org – The ocean and the sustainable development goals under the 2030 agenda for sustainable development – A technical abstract of the first global integrated marine assessment [Accessed online 16 April 2021] https://www.un.org
Chathamhouse.org – Making Concrete Change: Innovation in Low-carbon Cement and Concrete [Accessed online 16 April 2021] https://www.chathamhouse.org/2018/06/making-concrete-change-innovation-low-carbon-cement-and-concrete