A diver photographs an Econcrete structure, which reduces the ecological footprint of coastal and marine infrastructure. A diver photographs an Econcrete structure, which reduces the ecological footprint of coastal and marine infrastructure. A diver photographs an Econcrete structure, which reduces the ecological footprint of coastal and marine infrastructure. (Photo: Courtesy Enconcrete)

New 'eco' concrete is tough, but soft on marine life

Brooklyn park gets sustainable makeover that protects coastline habitat.

If you were a coral, oyster or crab and about to lay down foundations, where would you like build your next dream home?

This is the question that Econcrete founders from Israel asked themselves when they embarked on a mission to change the way we rebuild coastal environments. The company is creating a long-term solution for the Brooklyn Bridge Park, so marine life there will be healthy as the city works to protect coastal infrastructure – and its people.

Econcrete creates a new kind of concrete – one that gives strength to the shoreline at risk for erosion and floods, and that is also built to sustain life.

Solutions like this are much sought after, especially when cities like New York face the threat of future floods, but which must rebuild with nature in mind. Consider the 2012 floods caused by Hurricane Sandy: The devastating damages made it the second most costly hurricane in U.S. history.

Current solutions meant to stabilize break walls and shorelines do not consider the ecological and habitat needs of the plants and animals that live in the water. These tend to get covered in the weedy species that don’t promote a healthy shoreline habitat, and become eroded.

Econcrete has a new way to “shore up” support for coastal regions by creating a home that marine animals love. In effect, the marine life, like barnacles, continues to build support around the infrastructure.

A monitor checks in on the New York coastline. A monitor checks in on the N.Y. coastline. (Photo: Enconcrete)

Econcrete is already giving structure and life to two projects in the Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City. The company has built some small tidal pools, with nooks and crannies and a filtration system, and they are working to reinforce the rocky shore with their ecologically sound material.

Besides the fins and crab claws now clapping in New York, Econcrete has plenty of fans on shore as well, like Kate Orff from SCAPE Landscape Architecture in New York City, who is working on integrating Econcrete into her firm’s proposals for the city.

“Our global water bodies are under threat from pollution, habitat loss and acidification and desperately need restoration,” Orff told From The Grapevine: “At the same time, we need upgraded and protective infrastructure.

“Econcrete helps us design a future inclusive of the needs of both people and marine life,” she said. “Econcrete is important for coastal cities in that we need to find ways to make our edges more resilient to protect vulnerable residents and at the same time increase habitat for marine life.”

The technology behind Econcrete’s solution includes trade secrets in the formulation, texture and structure of the ecological concrete. They also know how to build a home that barnacles love. In a sense, the Econcrete comes alive when new animals cling to it.

You can already see this in action at the Brooklyn Bridge Park, where Econcrete is starting to “grow” its living projects. This waterfront site along Brooklyn’s East River edge has become one of the most popular areas in Brooklyn and New York City.

It has been a great pilot project for them, says Econcrete CEO Shimrit Perkol-Finkel, as the company gears up to lay sustainable foundations throughout America. They already have projects in Haifa, Israel, and Savannah, Georgia.

Perkol-Finkel tells From The Grapevine that being in New York City is “a significant stepping stone for us.” 
And a significant stepping stone, too, for the crabs and barnacles that have come to live side-by-side with New Yorkers.

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