Boskalis jaarverslagen 2011

Eco-dynamic design

Hydraulic engineering is directly linked to our environment which means that all over the world the environmental effects of hydraulic engineering projects are under close and constant scrutiny. During the various development stages in a project, from its design up to and including the realization and maintenance stage, experts are assessing whether it meets requirements. This is a good thing, in Boskalis’ opinion. However, this international assessment has many practical drawbacks. Conflicting interests and differences in the interpretation of environmental legislation and regulations mean that interested parties are often pitched against one another in arduous legal proceedings, with insufficient knowledge about ecological preconditions playing a crucial role. This situation can result in hydraulic engineering projects suffering long delays and in some cases being cancelled altogether. Boskalis sees eco-dynamic design as a possible solution. We are one of the initiators and financiers of Ecoshape, the foundation which executes the Building with Nature innovation program. Within the program we aim to set new, internationally accepted design standards. In this way we contribute towards the sustainable management and development of densely populated river, delta and coastal regions around the world.

In the course of this five-year research program which was launched in 2008 we, along with governments, business, universities, knowledge institutes, civil engineers and consulting firms, port operators and private contractors, are gaining knowledge and experience about the dynamics of nature. The goal is to develop hydraulic engineering projects which also create opportunities for nature by complementing the natural dynamics of the surrounding area. We call this eco-dynamic design. What is special is that this program links up with current or future projects, which means that the knowledge can be put directly to the test in real-life situations.
In the Netherlands the program has already produced various noteworthy results. For example, 2011 saw the delivery of the Sand Motor, a new and innovative way of maintaining the Dutch coastline. A huge quantity of sand was deposited off the coast which will be distributed along the coast of the province of Zuid-Holland by the natural forces of the tide, current and wave action. A subsidy has been granted to intensify the monitoring over the next few years, with doctorate students processing the research data arising from the monitoring into new knowledge.

Another example is the Green Wave-reducing Dike in the Noorderwaard polder in the south-western part of the Netherlands, a pilot project which is part of the Ruimte voor de Rivier (‘Room for the River’) project. Over the next three years the dikes of the polder, which lies to the south of the city of Dordrecht and covers an area of 2,000 hectares, will be lowered over a stretch of several hundred meters and in some places will even be cut. To prevent the local residents from getting wet feet and at the same time spare them having to look out on a high, ungainly new-build dike, a willow forest is to be planted in front of the existing dike. Over a stretch of one kilometer thousands of willow cuttings will be planted in the clay in a 100-meter wide swathe. Every other year these willows will be chopped down so that the stumps produce shoots which will catch a large part of the wash. With regular replacement of the willows they are expected to be able to break up to 80 per cent of the waves’ energy.
If this new method proves to be a success, it can be applied to future dike adjustments which are needed to drain off river and flood water and to cope with more frequent storms.

The research into soft coastal protection in tropical systems using mangroves is still ongoing. It involves looking at a potential future piloting of mangrove forests as a natural form of coastal protection in countries such as Indonesia. We are also looking into broadening our knowledge of the natural reproductive behavior of corals.

Future of Building with Nature

In 2011 the program was designated one of the 14 most promising business cases by the Dutch government program Topsector Water. In November 2011 Ecoshape signed an agreement with the Department of Public Works and the Dutch Association of Water Boards (Unie van Water­schappen) aimed at investigating how we can introduce even more practical solutions to the Department of Public Works and the water boards. This cooperation gives us a head start in the further development of knowledge and applying it, and Boskalis therefore sees the conclusion of the contract as a great step forward. In addition Building with Nature has been included in the innovation contract drawn up in the context of Topsector Water.

Over the past five years we have developed the Building with Nature concept and have shown that it works. At present a follow-up program is being prepared, in which we want to continue along the same lines, combining knowledge and practical cases. We are investing heavily in ‘natural flood barriers’, both in the Netherlands and elsewhere. We also want to look into possible new developments in vulnerable estuaries.

Added to My report add to My report Source: CSR Report 2011, Our environmental performance, page 48