Life on the coast is full of rewards. Shoredwellers can exploit the ecological resources of the land and the sea, not to mention the incredible views. But those benefits come with risks. The coast is a demanding, ever-changing environment that requires ongoing adaptations. We can see such efforts today in carefully managed artificial dunes, seawalls, and levees designed to protect against pounding waves and rising water. But not much has changed in the last several hundred years about seawall design until recently.
In 2017, Pepsy M. Kettavong, inventor, founder, and CEO of Smart Seawall™ Technologies, Inc. invented and developed a system to prevent shoreline erosion using the force of nature. What Kettavong and others knew is traditional seawall protection was no longer working. For example, traditional hardened seawalls made of concrete and sheet piling consisting of steel or composite material absorb zero percent of destructive wave energy and have a negative impact on the marine life environment. Kettavong’s hired physicists concluded that an 8 or 9 foot high wall, 50 feet wide, incurring destructive wave energy, is equivalent to 8 or 9 eighteen wheelers crashing into it at a speed of 55 mph. Imagine what that does to a property and the structural integrity of the seawall. In response to the research, Kettavong said, “You know what, let’s use a Thai Chi approach for a new design and use the ‘opponent’s’ energy towards itself.”
Kettavong then invented an interlocking seawall design, so when waves come in, the aquatic revetment system (ARS) diverts and absorbs wave energy. We strategically install the system based on the local marine environment and it remains locked in place over time. This is in direct contrast to traditional revetment systems in which we typically see shiftable rock and stone that moves over time. In addition, The Smart Seawall™ protects aquatic life and supports sustainable water systems that will not disrupt local ecosystems. (See Generation 1 SBDS in a 6 min. video at smartseawall. com). Smart Seawall™ Technologies, Inc. manufactured and installed three Smart Breakwall Diversion Systems at three locations along 300 feet of Lake Ontario, a US Great Lake in New York State. The results of these installations exceeded all expectations with Gen 1 SBDS absorbing and redirecting sixty percent of destructive wave energy.
With the success of Generation 1 SBDS under his belt, Kettavong wanted to see how his model could stand up to salt water while making the technology increase the level of absorption and wave diversion, have scalability, and an elegant design. Another critical consideration was sustainability. He wanted a seawall that promotes and encourages indigenous marine life. Generation 2 of SBDS became known as “The Smart Seawall,” based on proprietary technology. The wave absorption and diversion increased to seventy-one percent. The Smart Seawall is scalable, includes sustainability, and provides elegant shoreline designs. He met all his criteria for Gen 2.
Kettavong’s revolutionary design has a foundation that allows flexibility to foster the local habitat anywhere in the world. The unique interlocking structure offers sustainability and truly promotes and encourages indigenous marine life. “Any place worldwide that wants to grow reefs, Smart Seawall Technologies, Inc. can help with that.” From oyster beds, and mangroves, to seagrass, every area around the world has unique needs that Smart Seawall can accommodate. In terms of functionality, there are two different systems: The Smart Seawall™ Aquatic Series and The Smart Seawall™ Wave Diversion Series. Both are resilient with minimal maintenance and have elements to foster marine habitats. The “Aquatic Series: Intercoastal Sea Wall” is ideal for calmer waters such as bays, inlets, intercoastal canals, and harbors. The “Wave Diversion Series: Coastal Sea Wall” is ideal for oceanfront coastal properties with potentially rougher shores needing more protection.
The Smart Seawall is elegant. “For thousands of years we have been using essentially the same system since the first seawall was constructed by Constantine in 448 A.D,” says Kettavong. “The whole idea was to prevent invasion, so they built a retaining wall. Later, holding back water became the primary function of seawalls until the introduction of the “living shoreline” about 15 years ago. These living shorelines use mangrove and oyster beds for protection. The Smart Seawall creates marine life sanctuaries and eliminates the need for shoreline stone, called revetment. The challenge with installing revetment is that it turns into a guessing game with respect to the impact of a hurricane.” Hurricanes pull rocks oceanward and spread them out. The structural integrity becomes compromised, creating a dangerous environment for pedestrians. The seawalls most of us are familiar with have rock surrounding the seawall,” says Kettavong, “it not only lacks aesthetics and elegance but functionality, as well.”
The Smart Seawall’s modular design and patented technologies are customizable with a wide range of accessory options: custom colors, ARS (Aquatic Revetment System), promenade stairs, railings and glass panels, seawall lights and cleats, and direct access to outlets and electrical integration from a cap, omitting the need to excavate. “Currently, the average lifespan of a traditional hard surface seawall is 35 years. These seawalls have rust on steel and cracks in concrete…and if there are rocks, hurricanes move them. The Smart Seawall is different; we use an interlocking protective encapsulation. A combination of recycled material with a polymer resin that is ¼-inch thick and covers the form itself. This allows us to create the interlocking system that makes us unique.
We pour the concrete inside the interlocking system. Traditional concrete seawalls are generally 8 inches to 10 inches thick, maximum. Traditional steel seawalls and traditional vinyl sheet seawalls are generally ¼ inch to ½ inch thick. However, with The Smart Seawall, there is a ¼-inch polymer encapsulation, plus the concrete fill, so the form itself is 14-inches wide. This is double that of traditional concrete seawalls in the market today.” The polymer encapsulation alone will easily last 75 years. “Let’s say something happens to the polymer after 75 years…maybe there is a small crack in the polymer… that’s insignificant because the concrete behind it was never exposed all those years. This is different than the precast concrete seawalls because these seawalls get exposed to the elements right away. I believe we should have the same functionality and aesthetic standards for our seawalls as we have for our homes. The Smart Seawall brings the technologies, the sustainability, and functional elegance to do this.” Kettavong says. “Smart Seawall Technologies, Inc. is redefining shoreline protection. Our mission is to be the solution for the world’s rising sea levels and our vision is to provide the world with new ways of experiencing shoreline protection while being a good steward of our planet.”