They were created from concrete and shells. A cheap and simple way to save the reefs!

Concrete structures will help save coral reefs thanks to the ingenuity and engineering expertise of designers from Australian design studio REEF DESIGN LAB. The company has been rapidly developing its products to support aquatic ecosystems and create space for the natural formation of new coral reefs. Meet the latest project called EROSION MITIGATION UNITS, or EMU for short. What’s more, these structures also act as breakwaters, making the product solve several problems in one go.

Concrete structures to the rescue of coral reefs

EMUs, or Erosion Mitigation Units, are concrete structures created in special devices that resemble 3D printers in their method of operation. According to representatives of the REEF DESIGN LAB studio, which is responsible for their creation, they are a very good way of quickly, cheaply and ecologically creating space for new coral reefs. The process of creating them is very simple. A special machine presses a mixture of concrete according to a specific pattern. This casting then solidifies into a mould, which is ideal as a platform for the creation of a new coral reef.

“The modules are designed to reduce wave force and prevent further erosion along the beach at Clifton Springs, while providing an optimised habitat for colonising species. The undulating modules allow people to dive into the system at high tide and explore the rock pools at low tide, much like a natural rock reef. The 200 cm wide modules were manufactured from an eco-friendly mix of concrete and locally sourced recycled shell aggregate.” – reads the Reef Design Lab website

The multitude of protrusions, holes, tunnels and corridors that pass through the structures allow for the natural flow of water and aquatic organisms, and the rough surface combined with the corrugations allows for the stable settlement of corals, or other organisms that make up the reef ecosystem. Another advantage of the structures is their strength and size. In this way, a large object can be transported safely and without damage to its destination, for example by barge.

The company also has other ‘artificial’ coral reefs to its credit. On their social media profile, they show the effects of their constructions after 5 years of being submerged in water. They are entirely covered with aquatic organisms that have created a vibrant ecosystem there. It is worth noting that the project has been recognised in many prestigious competitions such as the Dezeen Awards Sustainable design (building product) of the year 2023, and theGood Design Award Sustainability 2023.


“We are a multidisciplinary design firm developing marine habitat infrastructure for a range of research and commercial applications. We provide products and services to architects, builders, governments and research institutions to help explore ways to repair and maintain ecological diversity in marine and coastal environments. Much of our work is dedicated to supporting and collaborating with marine researchers in a number of areas, including coastal protection, marine infrastructure eco-engineering and coral farming. Our in-house design and manufacturing capabilities allow us to continually explore and experiment with the latest 3D printing and casting technologies to bring new manufacturing ideas to life. We believe that collaboration between designers, scientists and the community is essential to improve our relationship between the built and natural environments.” – reads the studio’s website

photos: @marciariederer /

Also read: Australia | Interesting facts | Ecology | whiteMAD on Instagram | Concrete | Plants

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