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How this marine biologist is saving coastlines around the world

For her work reviving ecosystems on coastlines, ECOncrete CEO Shimrit Perkol-Finkel is one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People of 2019.

How this marine biologist is saving coastlines around the world
[Images: IkonStudio/iStock; IhorDan/iStock; Magda Ehlers/Pexels]


Shimrit Perkol-Finkel, an Israeli marine biologist, created ECOncrete with Dr. Ido Sella to protect and rejuvenate coastlines and marine life. The low-carbon, bio-enhanced concrete is custom-made for urban waterfronts, port redevelopment projects, and offshore energy platforms. Its chemical composition provides a more favorable environment for rich and diverse marine life. “I grew up diving,” Perkol-Finkel says, “and I’ve also studied coastal degradation, which can happen because of overexploitation and climate change. We need to build and preserve biodiversity.” In 2018, Perkol-Finkel’s material was used to revive the port of Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, and in the six months since it was installed, canopy-forming algae has flourished. ECOncrete was also employed for tide pools in New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park, creating more hospitable habitats for algae, crabs, oysters, and other marine life. Perkol-Finkel’s next project is in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she’s working to revive a pier.

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[Illustration: Nico 189]

Tide pools

To promote the ocean life that gathers in tide pools, concrete blocks are carved into concave shapes that imitate a rocky shoreline. Their water-retaining features promote the growth of seaweed, algae, crabs, and fish. In the six months since they were installed at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, the pools’ oxygen level has become twice as high as the surrounding area due to seaweed photosynthesis, making them an ideal habitat for flora and fauna.

[Illustration: Nico 189]

Armor unit

These customizable precast modular units have water-retaining tide pools carved into them and can be slotted alongside regular concrete. ECOncrete substitutes up to 10% of the cement content of its units with Admix, a chemical formulation that reduces chloride permeability and the project’s overall CO2 footprint.

[Illustration: Nico 189]

Eco mats

Concrete mattresses are an alternative to the standard concrete systems used to stabilize construction on shorelines. They protect offshore pipelines, cables, and turbine foundations. The mats increase biodiversity by supporting plant and animal ecosystems with their shape and chemical composition, which mimics that of naturally occurring rocks.

[Illustration: Nico 189]

Offshore Anchors

An anchoring system designed to help vessels moor offshore while fostering marine life, creating  biological niches and nursing grounds for flora and fauna. The anchors comply with the stringent marine construction standards, providing the offshore industry with an environmentally sensitive applicable solution, which fosters diverse ecosystem.

A previous version of this article mislabeled the last illustration, the caption has been amended.

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