Shore thing

3D-printed seawalls support ecosystems while protecting marine infrastructure.

Miami-based company Kind Designs recently installed the first panel of its 3D printed ‘living seawalls’ on the Miami coastline as an alternative to traditional seawalls. Rather than conventional flat concrete seawalls – underwater structures that protect the land from erosion, flooding and storm surges – living seawalls are designed to enhance the natural ecosystem rather than constrict it.


The living seawalls have a curvy artificial reef design that allows flora and fauna to find shelter in and against the walls. The façade of the seawall offers 60% more surface area for sea life to attach, encouraging colonisation and the creation of a robust coastal ecosystem. In turn, the seawalls enhance biodiversity and fortify the coastline, while also mitigating the impact of waves and tides, supporting a healthier and safer coastal environment. This flexible printed structure was made possible by a parametric design tool.


Recently selected as a winner of one of Fast Company’s ‘World Changing Ideas Award’, Kind Designs’ living seawalls are designed to mimic the shape and texture of mangrove roots, a natural marine habitat. ‘The mangrove roots create caves where sea life can hide from predators. So we created a mangrove root design on the face of our seawalls, which creates holes for sea life to hide from predators and has a smaller texture for organisms to attach,’ CEO Anya Freeman told Fast Company.


Freeman founded Kind Designs in 2020 after moving to Miami to study law. With no professional background in engineering, marine biology or construction, she was inspired to start the company after experiencing regular flooding in her home due to rising sea levels.



In contrast to the costly and time-consuming construction of conventional seawalls, the utilisation of 3D printing has revolutionised the production process. Thanks to Kind Designs' cutting-edge 3D printers – which it claims are the fastest concrete 3D printers in the world – the company can fabricate a three-metre high seawall panel in just an hour.


Further contributing to the prosperity of marine environments and water quality, the living seawalls also feature integrated sensors that collect 15 parameters of essential water quality data. This data can be used to predict phenomena like king tides, hurricanes and more to help safeguard cities.



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