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Spanish port to test nature-friendly infrastructure

17 Jun 21 Concrete sea wall and armour units that are designed to be hospitable to marine life are to be tested at a Spanish port following the award of EU funding.

ECOncrete has won support from the European Commission Horizon 2020 Fast Track to Innovation funding programme to enable a demonstration project to be set up at the Port of Vigo in Galicia.

The start-up, which is led by two marine biologists, produces concrete infrastructure designed to encourage regeneration of marine life. The units’ chemical composition, rough surface textures and nature-based 3-D designs have been designed to suit organisms such as oysters and kelp that encrust the infrastructure. The company says that this makes it stronger, biodiversity-positive, and an effective carbon sink. 

The Living Ports project is intended to promote a shift away from ‘grey’ construction and towards nature-inclusive infrastructure, said ECOncrete.

The consortium is built of four partners from three countries: ECOncrete Tech, the project coordinator; the Port of Vigo; Cardama Shipyard, a Spanish shipbuilding and ship repair company; and Technical University of Denmark (DTU) Civil Engineering and Aquatic Resources Institutes.

Living Ports will include two demonstration sites. One is a 310m² ECOncrete sea wall with an underwater monitoring and community outreach deck developed by Cardama Shipyard.

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The floating deck will be supported by five ECOncrete bio-enhancing moorings. The second involves 100 ECOncrete Tide Pool Armor units and ECO Armor Block units, which will provide coastal stabilisation as well as creating habitats.

During the three-year project (2021-2024), biological and structural monitoring will be led by DTU. An Italian team will also conduct first noise pollution reduction monitoring to investigate the effects of the enhanced marine growth that will take place on ECOncrete’s units.

“ECOncrete is enabling a revolution for marine ports, providing the tools to shift from focusing only on function and structural performance, to also focusing on benefitting the marine environment,” said ECOncrete’s co-founder, CEO and project coordinator, Dr Ido Sella. “Living Ports will be an iconic example for nature-inclusive port infrastructure: an active waterfront that also serves as a thriving habitat and a community focal point.”

“With the Living Ports project, DTU and their international collaborators are at the forefront of future harbour developments,” said DTU’s Wolfgang Kunther and Jon Svendsen. “The project creates the tools and documentation for next-generation harbours that not only provide crucial infrastructure, but also become vital living spaces for a wide range of marine organisms.”

The Port of Vigo said that it has a very active policy in environmental protection and has recently committed to reach zero carbon emissions in 2030. The Living Ports project fits within its strategy, it said.

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