ECOncrete: Sustainable Development For Battered Coastlines Revives Marine Life

ECOncrete: Every visit to our coastlines and beaches reveals to us the deterioration of their concrete reinforcements and the “missing” marine life at this merger with the water’s edge. Yet, as we are faced with the realities of this era of climate change and sea level rise, we must admit that the need for protection is real.

By Andrea Phillips

The whole idea of sustainable development dictates that we secure this protection in innovative ways that address these present issues without adversely affecting human and marine life or infringing on the welfare of future generations.

It’s time for science and industry to stop sacrificing–the health of the environment, the safety of human life, and the quality of build standards–in pursuit of economic growth and sought-after convenience.

Technology has to be committed to innovative design that protects the environment, with the promise of sustainability for this and future generations.

Perhaps this is why UK’s Prince Henry welcomed in the new year with his Earthshot Prize, “A multi-million pound prize for visionaries working to solve the earth’s greatest environmental problems.”

Five winners will be chosen every year for the next ten years. The goal is to provide at least 50 solutions to the world’s greatest environmental problems. [1]

What is the Objective of Sustainable Development For Our Coastlines?

The exciting news is that some of these coastlines are now the beneficiaries of an innovative approach from a group of forward-thinking ecologists with the mindset, passion and expertise to provide sustainable solutions.

This group of Israeli scientists witnessed the costly and deteriorating eyesore that concrete-lined coasts have become. They grew increasingly concerned about the way concrete was leeching harmful compounds into the oceans, and the resultant diminishing effect upon nearby marine life numbers.

This concern led them to invest their time and energy in developing a more innovative type of concrete: one that is more ecologically friendly, less costly, more enduring and even aesthetically pleasing.

They have penned their new technology “ECOncrete”. Designed to be “environmentally sensitive and enhance the biological and ecological value of  coastal, marine and even urban infrastructure, while increasing their strength and durability.”

Since 2012, Marine ecologists Shimrit Perkol-Finkel and Dr. Ido Sella – both passionate experts in green technologies – have lead their team of marine ecologists, biologists, geologists, concrete experts, engineers and designers with the idea to change coastlines from gray to blue-green; from hard and unrelenting to biologically interactive.

Do These Types of Efforts Make A Difference?

They have been successful in reducing carbon footprint, addressing sea level rise, fostering wave dissipation, saving near extinct species, cultivating the reappearance of marine life on various coastlines and balancing the marine ecosystem by reducing dominance of some invasive species.

“Past installations have successfully recruited endangered species such as the Eastern oyster and generated nursing grounds for commercial species like the Atlantic Blue Crab, even in heavily exploited waterfronts such as the New York Harbor.”

Their creative, science-based designs provide desirable biological needs, like:

  • Nursing grounds
  • Water-retaining features
  • Niches for endangered species
  • Increased strength and durability of coastal infrastructures with the proliferation of corals, oysters and other marine life, whose natural composition offers protection against chloride and scour to help reduce corrosion.
  • Plant canopies that buffer changes to temperature and humidity levels on the concrete.

The Amazing Transformation of ECOncrete

You can feel the care for the environment and commitment to providing viable solutions when surveying the array of tailored products they offer.

Their signature product is Bio-enhancing Concrete Admix.

They transform concrete with this specially formulated admixture that boasts of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They report on their Linkedin account that:

“ECOncrete®’s bio-enhancing concrete products have a substantial reduced carbon footprint (80% less ) compared to Standard Portland cement based concrete, due to a combination of proprietary admix integrating by-products and recycled materials, and unique ability to enhance biological processes such as biocalcification and photosynthesis which facilitate CO2 assimilation.

As you probably know, trees help to improve our air quality by removing CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. Trees act as carbon sinks. Just like trees; ECOncrete® has the potential to enhance photosynthesis compared to “gray” concrete, thus further reducing the structures’ carbon footprint by harnessing natural processes. 1 Km ECOncrete #Seawall = 2 ton Co2/Year = 400 trees”

The rich textural designs of their additional products house flora and fauna, creating safe habitats and promoting growth.  In addition, the resultant cultivation of enhanced floral activity – seagrass/kelp – results in increased carbon sequestration.

The Perfect Mixture of Innovation, Creativity and Solutions

In their quest to manifest real solutions, ECOncrete considered every aspect of coastlines, marine life and urban revival.

  • Their Eco Armour Blocks are modular units used to build coastal and marine defenses such as breakwaters and dykes.  Textural add-on elements attract oysters, seagrass and other fauna and flora.
(Co-founders Shimrit Perkol Finkel and Dr. Ido Sella seen here in this photo.)
  • Their Tide Pool Armor mimics natural rock pools to provide protection and biodiversity.  They have been installed in the US, Europe and Asia.
  • Their Eco Seawall upgrades aesthetics and provides protection. The corals and other marine life that inherently grow on the wall, help to further strengthen the wall against sea rise levels.
  • Their Eco Mats provide shoreline and bank stabilization, erosion control, and protection to cables and pipelines. These pre-assembled mats also support the growth of rich flora and fauna.
  • Their Eco Piles and Jackets are used to encase aging timber, steel and pipelines–again, texturally providing an environment for marine life to thrive.
  • Their Bio Active Wall System is for urban renewal. Its niches—which are complex, porous, and wet—create plant coverage on buildings/ facades, reduce ecological footprints, improve urban landscapes, and promote cleaner, healthier air.

All their products integrate byproducts and recycled materials.

Because of their desire to facilitate success, Shimrit Perkol Finkel, Dr Ido Sella and their team are very active and hands on, personally offering a full spectrum of services.

Consultation, design, project-specific product development, supply of materials and products, installation supervision, and post-installation monitoring keep them globally active.

They also initiate community outreach and education, write scientific papers, and maintain an informative website and active Linkedin account to interact with like-minded individuals, businesses and government efforts.

ECOncrete’s 2019 Revived Coastlines

2019 was a busy and productive year for ECOncrete as Jaffo, Israel; Monaco, France; Hong Kong; Southampton, UK; Hamburg, Germany; New York and San Francisco all invested in ECOncrete coastal installations to protect their citizens and revive their ecosystems.

In addition:

  • They were selected as one of 2019’s Business 100, who successfully combine purpose and profit to help the United Nations achieve their sustainable development goals.
  • Their product was chosen as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Best Inventions of 2019
  • Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic, joined Calcalist in Tel Aviv, Israel in October of 2019 sponsoring a “Pitch to Rich” contest, and ECOncrete got top prize for their pitch for Ocean Health and Ecology.
  • The “Beyond Bauhaus -Prototyping the Future” competition in Germany chose them as one of the 20 best ideas.
  • Co-founder Shimrit Perkol-Finkel was awarded the EU Women’s Innovator Award on behalf of ECOncrete.

Their efforts are furthering the manifestation of better protected coastlines, thriving with marine life.

Achieving Sustainable Development Goals For Coastlines Through Collaboration

There are numerous other challenges facing our coastal regions along with the issue of concrete – that ECOncrete is tackling.

Coastal regions are being impacted by population increases, weather events, tourism and a myriad of industrial operations.

A 2019 article published by The Marine Species Organization, entitled, “Threats to the Coastal Zone” cites:

“Severe beach erosion is a problem shared by many countries. The threat from industry and tourism infrastructure is still acute even if local and regional management plans help by slowing down the rate of construction. In several countries (e.g. Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai) artificial islands are built in the sea for urban extension, tourist resorts and airports.

Changes to the shoreline have been extensive in recent decades and threats from rising sea levels and sinking landmasses have required the development of new coastal management strategies. For example, water storage schemes and managed retreat schemes along coastlines have been proposed and enacted as soft-engineering works, for dealing with long-term problems in a environmentally friendly and sustainable way.” 2

Collaborative efforts are essential to address the many problems from all angles.

ECOncrete has joined the World Ocean Council, which champions ocean sustainable development, science and stewardship.

They have taken the WEDGE (Waterfront Edge Design Guidelines) pledge that “inspires projects to incorporate Eco-concious materials and resources to preserve neighboring habitats and biological integrity”.

(Image promoted by Richard Branson promoting collaboration for the climate crisis and the Paris Accord)

They are a part of a growing international communityof science and engineering companies, concerned citizens and investors working to better manage and maintain global coastlines. 

Looking Ahead Into 2020

ECOncrete resolutions for 2020 are:

  • 1. ECOncrete will focus on helping achieve UN SDG goal 14 by increasing biodiversity and productivity on urban waterfronts and working waterfronts around the globe
  • 2. New Partnerships are important to accomplish our goals and to make a real impact. We are happy to advance successful and fruitful collaborations with our partners and are looking forward to generating new partnerships in 2020
  • 3. We will research further and innovate more – new products and projects are planned as well as new IP to be developed – to generate new solutions to our clients’ needs and to the needs of coastal ecosystem across the globe.
  • 4. ECOncrete will offer donations to NGO’s and projects making a positive impact on our oceans. No plastic, No waste, More impact!
  • 5. In 2020 ECOncrete plans to grow more marine life on bio-enhanced concrete structures. We plan to grow our team and grow our impact on the coastal construction and concrete industries.

All of us look ahead to 2020 to better understand and contribute to sustainable development.

To change the paradigm of industrialism from life threatening to life enhancing.

To create standards for ourselves to be the industry innovators and support environmentally sensitive science and technologies.

To invest in preparing our children and future generations with the mindset, passion, education, and expertise to continue and lead these revival efforts.

We can support the effort of those businesses, industries and science technologies by joining their site newsletters and connecting on social media to share and energize their efforts and the positive achievements they are accomplishing.

Our energy and sharing can help connect like-minded people and foster collaboration to build momentum towards the life-saving goal of sustainability.