Inspired by marine ecosystems and designed to enhance marine infrastructure, ECOncrete is improving ocean health with a biomimicry-inspired new concrete technology
Submitted by Ray C. Anderson Foundation
Pictured L-R: Dr. Ido Sella and Dr. Shimrit Perkol-Finkel, co-founders of ECOncrete.
The Biomimicry Institute and the Ray C. Anderson Foundation are proud to announce that this year’s Ray of Hope Prize® has been awarded to ECOncrete Tech LTD., a science-based company that develops high performance, environmentally-sensitive concrete products for coastal and marine infrastructure projects. ECOncrete offers products that facilitate the growth and regeneration of local marine species and strengthen structures over time through a process known as bioprotection. Inspired by beach rock formations, coral polyps, oyster shells, mangrove roots, and other marine habitats and life forms, ECOncrete embodies biomimicry’s design intention: to learn from and mimic forms and processes found in nature to create regenerative solutions.
With over 50 percent of the world’s population concentrated along coastlines, natural ecosystems are severely stressed. The combined threats of sea level rise and extreme weather events means that coastlines worldwide need eco-sensitive development, retrofitting, and intensive maintenance — a potential multibillion-dollar market for ECOncrete’s products. ECOncrete's proprietary technology is based on three science based elements that work in synergy: Bio-enhancing concrete admix, rough surface texture, and locally-attuned 3D design that fosters the growth of native plants and animals. ECOncrete’s diverse team is composed of marine biologists, coastal/marine engineers, product designers, and marketing and sales professionals. Together, they are revitalizing coastlines across the globe with projects in New York, Georgia, Florida, London, and in the Netherlands.
The Ray of Hope Prize celebrates and accelerates nature-inspired solutions to address the world’s environmental and sustainability challenges. The $100,000 prize competition is named after Ray C. Anderson, the founder of Interface, Inc. It embodies Ray’s quest to prove that sustainability is not just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do for business. ECOncrete’s vision to change the way coastal and marine construction industries operate impressed an expert panel of judges who recognized the spirit of Ray’s mantra of ‘doing well by doing good’ in the company’s strategy to learn from nature’s designs.
“The most simple and straightforward test for biomimetic design may simply be to see how compatible it is with all surrounding living systems, not just serving humans,” said Beth Rattner, the Executive Director of The Biomimicry Institute. “ECOncrete’s solution promotes ecological diversity, is safe, and supports the life that is designed around. This design is truly well-adapted for its ecosystems, and that is what ultimately set the solution apart.”
ECOncrete supports natural processes like calcification and the growth of oysters, corals, tube worms, and the like to help concrete structures become stronger, have a longer service life, and to better cope with extreme weather events and rising seas. The growth of these organisms also acts as an active carbon sink, offsetting some of the huge carbon footprint associated with traditional concrete (7-8% of global emissions). Because it increases in strength over time, restores native habitats, and reduces mitigation requirements for infrastructure projects, ECOncrete's technologies are cost-competitive to traditional large marine infrastructure projects.“
ECOncrete has tapped into the growing field of ecosystem services with a successful form of “habitecture,” said Janine Benyus, biomimicry pioneer and one of this year’s judges. “This design provides habitat, increases diversity of the ecosystem, and is tailored to the local environment. I wish there were a hundred more ECOncrete products out there!”
ECOncrete’s products use biomimicry and the principles of restoration ecology to create habitat, shelter, and food for a diverse ecosystem of marine plants and animals via enhanced infrastructures like seawalls and breakwaters. Unlike traditional structures that typically destroy coastal habitats and their fragile communities, ECOncrete’s products actually encourage regeneration.
“I am intrigued by ECOncrete’s pragmatic approach to climate adaptation,” said Deron Davis, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in Georgia and a judge for this year’s competition. “Communities around the world are facing serious flooding challenges and ECOncrete has demonstrated it can provide greater biological value when armored sea walls are necessary.”
The company’s solution reduces the ecological footprint of ports and urban waterfronts. This allows decision makers, engineers, contractors, and landscape architects to integrate innovative eco-engineering technologies while building in harmony with nature. ECOncrete’s products are manufactured using patented Bio-Enhancing concrete admixtures with forms and form liners that are tailored to fit specific locations.
"Ocean health and human health are entwined. We can't protect our coastlines while destroying fragile coastal ecosystems. This is where biomimicry can come to play: by drawing inspiration from nature and designing environmentally-sensitive coastal protections that benefit humans and marine life as one,” said Shimrit Perkol-Finkel, CEO & Chief Scientist of ECOncrete. “The Ray of Hope Prize and the Biomimicry organization can help us transform this vision into a reality."
This year’s Ray of Hope Prize Runner-Up prize of $25,000 was awarded to Cypris Materials, a company that has mastered the science of creating structural color — producing paint colored by structure rather than with pigments or dyes. In addition, all finalists for the Ray of Hope Prize are receiving financial support to help them take the next steps to commercial success. “This is the point where all of your stories begin,” said John A. Lanier, Executive Director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. “In sharing your lessons learned from nature and adapting them to solve design problems, you begin to captivate people around the world. They can see the power of biomimicry in your business, and they can believe in the endless possibilities for its potential.”
For more information about the Biomimicry Institute and Ray of Hope Prize, visit biomimicry.org.
About the Biomimicry Institute
The Biomimicry Institute is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization founded in 2006 that empowers people to seek nature-inspired solutions for a healthy planet. To advance the solution process, the Institute offers AskNature.org, a free online tool that contains strategies found in nature and examples of ways they are used in design. It also hosts a Biomimicry Global Design Challenge and Youth Design Challenge to support project-based education; a Biomimicry Launchpad program and Ray of Hope Prize® for entrepreneurship to bring designs to market; and connects innovators through the Global Biomimicry Network.
ECOncrete offers innovative, robust and environmentally sensitive concrete solutions, designed to encourage development of rich and diverse marine life as an integral part of urban and coastal marine infrastructure such as seawalls, breakwaters, bridge foundations and urban waterfronts. The proprietary technology is based on three core elements: bio-enhancing concrete compositions, complex surface textures, and science-based designs, which work in synergy to decrease the ecological footprint of concrete infrastructure while enhancing their strength and durability.
About the Ray C. Anderson Foundation
The Ray C. Anderson Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that seeks to promote a sustainable society by supporting and funding educational and project-based initiatives that advance knowledge and innovation in sustainability.
The Ray C. Anderson Foundation was created in honor of the late Ray C. Anderson (1934-2011), founder of Interface, Inc. During his time at Interface, Ray championed the notion of businesses doing well by doing good. It’s these noble qualities of advancing knowledge and innovation around environmental stewardship and sustainability that recognized Ray as a pioneer in industrial ecology.
The purpose of the Foundation is to perpetuate these shared values and continue the legacy that Ray left behind. Through research and funding, the Foundation aims to help create a better world for future generationsâ€”tomorrow’s child. Join us as the story of the Foundation continues to unfold.
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