THE MEDIA VOICE OF THE GLOBAL MARINA INDUSTRY

Life in the seawall

Florida-based company Kind Designs is innovating on traditional, uninspiring concrete seawalls by installing vibrant, cost-competitive ‘Living Seawalls’ that benefit marine life and can be tailored to suit different environments. Charlotte Niemiec finds out more

Living Seawall in the water.

Living Seawall in the water.

Seawalls haven’t changed much since they were first installed in the USA, in Galveston Bay, Texas more than 100 years ago, Kind Designs product development lead Charlotte Hoffman says. By 2050, the US construction industry is expected to have destroyed 50,000 miles (80,468km) of marine habitat by installing traditional, toxic seawalls. Kind Designs seeks to replace these seawalls with an environmentally conscious and economically scalable solution.
“We are the first and only company in the world to 3D-print seawalls,” says Hoffman. “We’re disrupting coastal construction by addressing a major pain point for coastal contractors. Instead of having to make their own concrete seawall slabs, which takes a lot of labour and space, these contractors can now buy the seawall panels at a price competitive to making their own. Instead of competing with local businesses or existing contractors, we are enabling them to take on much more business.”
Anya Freeman, CEO (left) and Charlotte Hoffman, business development lead.

Anya Freeman, CEO (left) and Charlotte Hoffman, business development lead.

The seawalls also help to solve marine habitat degradation. By 3D-printing the product, the company is able to incorporate an artificial reef structure into the seawall design, which helps rejuvenate coastal ecosystems and improve water quality.
Living Seawalls are plug-and-play, as the printing technology allows slabs to be customised to meet the exact design of already-permitted concrete seawall projects or integrated into the design at the start of a project. “Additionally, if you have seawalls already installed but would like the environmental benefit, we can add Living Tiles,” Hoffman says. These are independent artificial reefs that can be affixed to any seawall – steel, vinyl or concrete – made with the same non-toxic materials as the seawalls.
The company installed its first Living Seawall in Miami Beach earlier this year and is now in the process of fitting 12 more in the state in the next two months.
Environmental benefits
Living Seawalls feature an artificial reef on their facade that offers shelter and 60% more surface area for sea life to attach, encouraging colonisation and the creation of a robust coastal ecosystem. Irregular ridges and textures on the wall, as a result of the 3D-printing process, act as anchoring sites, better protecting organisms from wave energy, boat wakes and storms compared to a traditional flat wall.
A Living Seawall being installed in Miami Beach earlier this year.

A Living Seawall being installed in Miami Beach earlier this year.

The seawalls have been designed using biomimicry principles to imitate the natural coastal habitat in South Florida, making it suitable for native marine species. Based on where the seawalls are installed, the company can change the design to mimic the environment. Water quality sensors fitted into the walls also collect 15 parameters of essential data.
Importantly, the seawalls are cost-competitive. “Part of Kind Designs’ founding principle was to make sure there were economies of scale for an environmental solution,” Hoffman explains. “So many times there are green premiums for products that either don’t harm or don’t even benefit the environment, preventing them from becoming a global solution for an environmental problem. Our Living Seawalls are a cost competitive solution to traditional ones, priced at US$25-30/ft². Traditional concrete walls usually range from US$20-25 and steel sheet pile costs even more.”

The seawalls are durable, too. “Concrete lasts forever – there are concrete seawalls built during the Roman Empire that are still standing today!” Hoffman says. “That being said, modern day seawalls require the use of a reinforcement bar (rebar) for added tensile strength. Rebar is the actual determining factor in the life of a concrete seawall. Concrete seawalls with steel rebar last 30-50 years, while a concrete seawall with a fibreglass rebar can double their life, or more.”
Printed protection
The walls are constructed using 3D printed mortar, made from 5,000psi marine-grade extrudable concrete, which is environmental product declaration (EPD) certified, pH balanced and non-toxic, using no metals, chloride or sulphates. The concrete used to fill the interior is 6,000psi marine-grade ready-mix concrete. The company uses the customer’s choice of either steel, glass fibre or galvanised steel rebar, depending on the engineer’s specifications.
With the fastest concrete printer in the world, extremely small layer sizes are printed using a completely autonomous robot, allowing for fast production times and seawalls with detailed designs.
3D printed living tile designs.

3D printed living tile designs.

In the first step, the 3D shell is printed with the artificial reef design, which takes around one hour and 15 minutes. Next, the rebar cage is inserted inside the shell, which takes another hour. In another half an hour, the interior is complete. Cure time is just 48 hours, compared to the two or three weeks for traditional seawalls. The entire panel is ready for delivery within seven days of printing.
The panels are then delivered to the installation site by truck or barge and can be installed by any marine contractor, with no special ‘know-how’ or equipment — just a crane. They can be installed using either piles or tiebacks. For very large projects, the printing robot can even be brought on site.
Tailored design
The nature of 3D-printing lends itself to completely customisable designs, enabling each seawall to be unique and recognisable. “We can print a design that mimics the natural coastal environment, your marina’s logo into the wall, or even an art piece,” Hoffman says. ??Partnerships between Kind Designs and renowned artists are possible, and can transform waterways into public art installations on an impressive scale while protecting marine environments.
“Our business model is based on franchising,” Hoffman explains. “We have international exclusivity to 3D-print seawalls with our robot partner CyBe. Our goal is to franchise nationally and internationally to replace traditional seawalls with Living Seawalls across the globe. Right now we’re working on a joint venture in the Bahamas to service the Caribbean. All licensing partners will get access to our copyrighted library of designs, and we can work on specific designs tailored to each partner location.”
A and a close-up view of the seawall shell.

A and a close-up view of the seawall shell.

The company’s success owes as much to its team as to its idea. Born in Ukraine, the company’s adventurous CEO, Anya Freeman, lived in Israel, South Africa and China (Shanghai) before receiving a scholarship to study law at the University of Miami. Afterwards, she worked for the US Attorney’s Office and clerked at the US District Court before opening her own law firm, Freeman Law Group, focused on environmental policy and litigation. Inspired by first-hand experience at her flooded house in South Beach and frustrated with lack of innovation around rising sea-levels, Freeman took on the challenge of finding technological solutions to this global challenge that both supports the environment and has economies of scale. That’s when Kind Designs was born.
Other team members are experts in marine construction, 3D printing, autonomous robots, software engineering, conservation and media.

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