Since the dawn of human civilization, coastal zones have been a location of choice for large populations and today nearly two thirds of the world’s population lives in such areas. Unfortunately, coastal development has resulted in habitat degradation and erosion, especially of marine life. While stopping development altogether is impossible, Israeli company ECOncrete says adopting a more sustainable approach is beneficial to all.
ECOncrete was founded by marine biologists Dr. Shimrit Perkol-Finkel and Dr. Ido Sella, who have been doing work on coastal infrastructures for years. The company produces a series of products made from concrete, which simultaneously enhance coastal infrastructure and elevate marine biodiversity.
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The two say that they have always wanted to contribute to the marine environment and that they saw an opportunity in making slight modifications to concrete products. “Because we saw that most of the infrastructure is built from concrete,” Perkol-Finkel tells NoCamels, “we target concrete as our main goal.”
A balance between strength and ecology
Founded last year, ECOncrete already has several projects under its belt, including a project at the Haifa port in Israel and another at the Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York, where rotting wooden piles that held the pier were a major concern.
ECOncrete analyzed the problem, designed a solution and sent containers from Israel with all the material needed for the job. The company will install concrete with rugged texture and tiny crevices, which will strengthen the piles and also allow marine biodiversity to thrive.
Among the company’s series of concrete products, you will find armoring units, piling capsulation, and tide pools. The armoring units have been used for ecological purposes at the port of Haifa, and the tide pools were installed to act as a habitat for the marine life; “they are as strong as a normal coastal defense unit, but they allow more oxygen to flow from underneath, and have different depths, a fact which elevates biodiversity, says Perkol-Finkel. Installing tide pools is the second phase of the Brooklyn Bridge Park project, which is starting this month.
A win-win situation
At present, ECOncrete boasts that it is one of the very few company that provides a solution to both ecology and infrastructure of piers. “Most companies either have structures that contribute only to preservation, or simply act as coastal defense units,” Perkol-Finkel claims.
Additionally, good infrastructure and marine life reinforces each other, because “once you have marine life growing on the concrete, it actually makes the concrete stronger over time,” explains Perkol-Finkel. Marine organisms that build calcium carbonate on structures, such as oysters, mussels and corals, actually protect the concrete by absorbing the energy from huge storms or surges. These advantages contribute to the structures’ stability, longevity and durability, further reducing maintenance costs in the long run.
ECOncrete’s future plans include projects in the port of Savannah, Georgia, with the New York and Jersey Port Authority, and at the old Jaffa port in Israel. They also hope to expand to the US West Coast, and hit the European market in the future.