Geosynthetics as alternative solution for coastal protection

Geosynthetics As Alternative, Sustainable Solution For Coastal Protection

These days, it is practically impossible to read the news without coming across a story about the environment or sustainability. Whether it is the first floating solar panel farm in the Middle East installed to increase the share of renewable energy on an island in Abu Dhabi, solutions to the problem of single-use plastics, inefficient waste streams or sustainable development, environmental and social sustainability are now critical objectives. Sustainable development has gained a lot of traction over recent years, and with that has the use of geosynthetics as alternative solution for coastal protection.

Mirroring the skepticism

Although the use of geosynthetic containers (GSC) as structure in coastal engineering is already more than 50 years old, with many successful examples of installations all over the world, at times, we still hear objections. Some of the regional contractors have not felt much pressure to switch to sustainable solutions since many of their clients are still working with the impression that rock is the only reliable solution, as it has been used in construction for at least 500 years. While this may have been true before the 1980s, the situation is very different today.

However, despite the large number of successful installations, the objections we hear in the region mirror the skepticism that was often heard early on in Australia and Europe. The best way to assuage these concerns is by educating contractors and clients, and recommending the right solution for the right purpose at the right location.

Improving the outlook 

As more and more governments come to realize the value of sustainable development and start placing it at the top of their agendas, more and more pressure builds on local and regional companies to begin the process of using sustainable development methods. Furthermore, the use of geotextile sand-filled containers offers a multitude of benefits compared to rock that cannot be ignored:

  1. Reduced time & cost: The availability of local sand as a cost-free material saves time, logistics and costs associated with quarrying and transporting rock to site.
  2. Easy to install & remove: The design and installation requires technical knowledge, but a temporary structure can be constructed in a relatively short period of time. It can also be removed quickly at the end of construction works and sand fill material can be used for beach profiling.
  3. Highly sustainable: Their lower crest and smaller footprint have a much lesser impact on marine environments and coastal habitats than rock. On the contrary, within months the containers are covered with a thick growth of macro algaes, attracting marine life, increasing biodiversity and total populations.

“Geosynthetic containers are the future,” says Dr. Juan Recio, Associate Director, Ports, Marine and Geotechnical at AECOM. “We have a lot of sand in the region, which is the main element to create geosynthetic containers. Another advantage is that they can be used in a large variety of applications,” added Dr. Recio. “Especially now with the move to sustainable development, we expect them to grow exponentially in the region the coming years.

Watch how we used geosynthetic containers to protect a hotel’s playground from further erosion. We installed a 40m long retaining wall, using 5 rows of 5 tonnes sand-filled geosynthetic containers. A more permanent solution, allowing the hotel to avoid the costly exercise of purchasing high-quality beach sand to re-nourish the beach following each shamal. Full case study is available here.

Filip Stefanovic

If you would like to know more about geosynthetic containers, Filip Stevanovic, our in-house GSC expert and head of engineering, is ready to guide you through a webinar. He can be reached at [email protected] or +971 4 885 3944.¬†