Dialog Box



Living Seawalls is a SIMS initiative that builds on years of Sydney-based marine green engineering research that shows retrofitting existing seawalls with habitat enhancing units can improve the ecological performance of artificial structures.     


T he Living Seawalls team are investigating methods to scale up “greening seawalls” initiatives from centimeters to meters and of adding multiple types of habitat enhancing tiles to a single seawalls. The team is working with Reef Design Lab , a Melbourne-based design studio, to develop these ecologically informed structures. They are monitoring the tiles over time to answer questions such as how different microhabitats on the tiles influence community development, or understanding the scales at which greening seawalls can enhance ecosystem function.



Leadership Team

A/Prof Mel Bishop

Macquarie University 

Dr Katherine Dafforn

Macquarie University 

Dr Mariana Mayer Pinto


Dr Maria Vozzo


Dr Aria Lee




Sawmillers Reserve 

The first Living Seawalls installed along  an existing seawall at Sawmillers Reserve in McMahons Point were celebrated in February 2019 at a launch event


Milson's Point

In October 2018 , Volvo Australia hosted an official launch to celebrate the installation at Milsons Point which is a collaboration between SIMS, Reef Design Lab, North Sydney Council and Volvo.


Northern Beaches

We're excited about our installations at Clontarf and Fairlight.  A collaboration between SIMS, Reef Design Lab, and the Lim-Sutton Initiative. 


Rushcutters Bay

Living Seawalls arrive at Rushcutters Bay.  Thank you to the City of Sydney


Thornton Park Balmain

Thanks to the support of the Harding Miller Foundation and the Inner West Council.


Engineering Science

Ideally, ecologically informed designs would be incorporated during the initial construction of an artificial structure, but as most of the shoreline in Sydney Harbour is already modified, the current focus of Living Seawalls is to provide cost-effective options for retrofitting existing structures on private and public seawalls.

In the current phase of the project, concrete tiles have been specially designed using 3D technology to mimic natural habitat features of Sydney rocky shores and are retrofitted to existing seawalls. The tiles have also been engineered to withstand local wave climates, with the expectation that they will remain on the seawalls for at least 20 years. Each tile is 55 cm in diameter and has a unique hexagonal shape, allowing tiles of different designs to be attached in a mosaic pattern that suits site conditions or aesthetic requirements.

In the future the team anticipates developing additional cost-effective habitat-enhancing structures, such as seawall blocks, that can be produced and installed during seawall construction or renovation. The team also plans to expand the project to other artificial marine infrastructure such as pilings and breakwater. By simultaneously raising awareness of the growing problem of shoreline armouring and providing cost-effective, customizable solutions for ecological improvement of artificial structures, we anticipate opportunities for Living Seawalls will continue to grow.

Why not take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions  

Monitoring and Evaluation

The Living Seawalls team has developed a monitoring program to determine how 1) the complex microhabitats of each tile and 2) the number of habitat tiles installed, influences the ecological function of artificial structures.

With the help of Honours, Masters and PhD students, the team is assessing community development from microbes to fish. We are also paying special attention to the rates of colonisation on each tile type by non-native species. In addition to quantifying biodiversity and community development, the team is collaborating with researchers from the University of Sydney who use cutting edge habitat mapping techniques to measure the physical change in habitat over time.

We are also quantifying how Living Seawalls installations influence ecosystem functioning, such as improved water quality.

The team began monitoring each site prior to tile installation and will continue monitoring the Living Seawalls tiles every 6 months for at least the first two years after habitat tiles are installed.

Our Partners 

Living Seawalls has been made possible by government, philanthropic and corporate sponsors. Our sponsors include New South Wales government (NSW Environmental Trust Grant), the Harding Miller Foundation, James N. Kirby Foundation, The Ian Potter Foundation, Lim Sutton Initiative, SIMS Foundation and Volvo Australia.




The project has also benefitted significantly from in-kind contributions by GHD, North Sydney Council and Reef Design Lab. 


Follow us!