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Boskalis jaarverslagen 2012

3D printed reefs

Six artificial reef modules are due to be installed by Boskalis at the larvotto underwater reserve in Monaco in 2016. the reefs consist of sand, were made using a 3D printer and will be used to improve the ecology and the quality of the seawater at the reserve.

The idea for the pilot project was developed by Astrid Kramer and her colleagues at Boskalis’ in-house engineering company Hydronamic. Their idea for manufacturing the reefs based on scientific and ecological principles won the Boskalis Innovation Challenge in 2014.

Coral reefs under pressure

All over the world coral reefs are under pressure and initiatives are being developed to protect and restore them. Boskalis is very experienced in the restoration of habitats, large-scale coral relocation and the use of artificial reefs. “Until now artificial reefs were made using concrete, car tires and even ship wrecks. But such material is poorly suited as a foundation for new coral,” says Astrid. “For this project we are using sand from the Dolomites, the composition of which is compatible with the local environment.” Boskalis’ partners on the pilot project are Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco (FPA2), the Monaco Association for Nature Protection (AMPN) and 3D printing company D-Shape. Philippe Mondielli, scientific director of FPA2: “These artificial reefs can help to improve the ecology and the quality of the seawater in the Larvotto reserve.” Boskalis made it known that it was looking for a site where it could gain knowledge and experience of designing, making, installing and monitoring 3D printed coral reef modules. The foundation put the Boskalis team in contact with AMPN, which manages the Larvotto nature reserve. AMPN was looking to boost its knowledge about the impact of artificial reefs on the reserve and saw this as a unique opportunity.

Six artificial reef modules

The pilot project is supervised by an international team of marine scientists who have researched topics including what foundation and what reef geometry are best suited to the development of marine life in the Larvotto reserve. “All these characteristics are incorporated into a single 3D design”, says Jamie Lescinski, project manager at Boskalis.

The pilot project will involve making six artificial reefs using a 3D printer. The reef modules are shaped like a mushroom measuring about 2 meters in diameter and 1 meter in height. The printing process involves mixing sand with an environmentally friendly binding agent. When dry an artificial reef weighs around 2.5 tons. A life-size model presented at the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Larvotto reserve in October 2015 attracted great interest.

Boskalis is coordinating the design and production, and will also be responsible for transporting the reefs to Monaco and installing them there. The installation will be followed by the monitoring stage. “This is the essential part of the project,” continues Jamie. “Habitat surveys will be carried out under the supervision of FPA2 over a period of at least two years in order to record the developments in minute detail. This will be done in close cooperation with the scientific world in order to gain a solid understanding of how the reefs contribute to the local habitat and development of marine life.”

All parties involved view this as a unique opportunity to contribute to a new vision on artificial reef development. If the pilot is successful, it could make an important contribution to boosting biodiversity and building or restoring ecosystems around the world.

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