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This building solution presents an innovative Building with Nature solution for coastal development through the application of feeder beaches: A spatially concentrated nourishment which is placed at a specific location with the aim to gradually feed the surrounding coast. Wind, waves and currents will spread the nourished sediments along the coast thereby contributing to the coastal safety on the longer term while creating more opportunities for nature and recreation.
In the past, erosive coasts were protected by man-made, hard structures like dikes and dams. It was soon realised that these defences often induce erosion down-drift and so softer engineering options were introduced. Structures were built that worked with the natural deposition processes occurring at the coast. Groins and breakwaters were seen as the preferred option to build up beach and dune levels in order to offer a natural barrier to the sea. In the last 15 years alternative but nowadays quite common solutions of soft nourishment were applied. Sand was placed at the location where it was directly needed, and slowly dispersing in time, while interacting with the hard structures.
Artificial coastal sand nourishments are applied for various reasons:
- to compensate losses due to (structural) erosion, and hence maintaining biodiversity
- to enhance the safety of the hinterland against flooding
- to broaden a beach or create new beaches e.g. for recreational purposes
- to reclaim new areas such as peninsulas or artificial islands for urban or industrial development
- to feed the surrounding coast with sand at a rate governed by nature
In the case of structural erosion, the nourishment will have to be repeated from time to time as the erosion is an ongoing process. The interval between successive nourishments depends on the rate of erosion and on the equipment mobilisation costs. In addition, the timing of the nourishment should be carefully chosen with respect to breeding season of species (seals, birds, etc.) and nursery habitats of fish and shrimps. Generally, an interval of five years is considered acceptable (for Dutch cases). Compared to hard solutions, nourishment is a flexible solution, while costs are spread over a longer time. For conditions along the Dutch coast this makes the soft nourishments more economical than the hard solutions with the added advantage that no lee-side erosion occurs (typical for hard solutions).
Sand nourishment can be carried out at various locations in the beach profile, such as the shoreface or foreshore (underwater), beach & surf zone and in the dune zone. In alongshore direction, the nourishment can be distributed over a large distance or placed more locally (concentrated). In the latter case, the goal of the nourishment could be to feed the adjacent coast gradually. Tide, winds and waves transport the sediments and spread it along the coast. This distribution of sand occurs gradually at rates that the adaptation of nature and species can keep up with. This enables nature and species to adapt. In case of an emerged nourishment, where part of the nourishment reaches above high water level, one can speak of a concentrated nourishment feeding the surrounding coastal area: e.g. the new beach provides new services such as recreation. A very large submerged foreshore nourishment does not provide such services; thus, for additional service for coastal development it is important that part of the nourishment is emerged and accessible (either by foot or boat). In case of an emerged concentrated nourishment the length of the shoreline increases due to the nourishment providing more space for recreation, water sports and beach lovers. In addition, new dunes and vegetation could develop increasing nature value.
Beach profile (picture by S.D. IJff)
Nourishments for coastal development attracts new services and hence new beach visitors (human and animals), which require a different management of the coast at the nourishment and its surroundings. In case of an non-enclosed nourishment, the shape and bathymetry of the nourishment will change continuously under the forces of tide, wind and waves. It is therefore important that an adaptive management strategy is adopted to anticipate the unforeseen and poorly predictable developments.
Shallow areas in front of hydraulic infrastructure act as a buffer for safety by dissipating wave energy. Due to the extra segment of water that is created by the rise in sea-level, a sediment shortage on many of such shoals will be created leading to a decrease in area. Nourishment can be an effective measure to fulfil the sediment demand of the shoals and maintain a dynamic equilibrium between erosion and sedimentation.
- Concentrated nourishments feeding the surrounding coastal area can facilitate more simultaneous (ecosystem) services, like safety against flooding, nature development and recreation.
- The area to be nourished will be disturbed once in a long period while nature does the work, this can have ecological advantages.
- Tide, winds and waves transport the sediments and spread it along the coast. This distribution of sand occurs gradually at rates that nature can keep up with. This enables nature and species to adapt.
- A larger fresh water volume can be held in the dune area.
- The price of the large volume of sand for a feeder beach might be lower than the costs of the smaller volumes of sand summed up for regular nourishments.
- Mobilisation of the dredging equipment is required only once instead of regularly in the case of disposing smaller volumes regularly. This allows for optimisation in construction methods.
The sand motor and the benefits of feeder beaches.
- The evolution of the nourishment depends on the tides, wind and waves and can therefore not be fully predicted. This may lead to unforeseen or poorly predictable situations which should be managed in an adaptive manner.
- The initial sand volume of the nourishment of a feeder beach will be much larger than for a regular nourishment. Therefore, benthic species will be buried under a larger amount of sand.
- Eventually the nourishment should be repeated.
How to use
To determine the feasibility and design of a concentrated nourishment for coastal development, guidance is presented below. First, the feasibility of a concentrated nourishment for coastal development is assessed using a rule-of-thumb method. Subsequently, a preliminary design of the concentrated nourishment is determined using simple (interactive design) tools including parameterization. For appropriate detailing and a geometric design more advanced tools (like process-based models) are available to be applied.
Guidelines for feasibility of concentrated nourishments
To be able to determine the feasibility of a concentrated nourishment for coastal development the following systematic approach is recommended.
Step 1: Project initiation
In the initiation phase of the project the next items need to be considered:
- determine the need for nourishment;
- determine the goal of the nourishment: safety, nature, recreation, or other, or a combination;
- determine possible locations of the concentrated nourishment; the location does not have to be the optimal location from coastal management perspective, but can be a location which balances well all other considerations;
- determine the timing of the nourishment in the year: the period of constructing the nourishment should be carefully chosen with respect to breeding season of species (seals, birds, etc.) and nursery habitats of fish and shrimps.
Step 2: Analyse present situation
- determine the characteristics of the area such as hydrodynamics, wind, waves, sediment characteristics (grain size, bed composition, cross-shore profile shape), ecology, annual sediment transports, morpho-dynamics, etc.;
- make inventory of stakeholders within project related area.
Step 3: Asses impact of desired intervention
To assess the impact of the intervention and to investigate whether impacts are acceptable or desirable, or that certain impacts need to be mended, it is advised to:
assess the temporal impact of the desired intervention to its surrounding environment; involve experts (like consultants and knowledge institutes) to predict and evaluate the short and long term impact. Besides the standard design aspects it is suggested to consider the BwN design aspects listed in the table below:
Standard design aspects
Extra BwN design aspects
Diversity in ecological conditions
Local burial of benthic species
Indirect impact on foreshore
as proxy for juvenile fish
- In this step the typical design parameters can be varied, such as the nourishment volume, alongshore length, nourishment frequency, and for some case sediment grain size. If the intervention is very different from previous measures, predictive shoreline modelling is required. The same holds for a first nourishment along an unstudied coast.
Designing tools for concentrated nourishments
Step 4: First order designing (conceptual)
A first design step is to optimise the location of the concentrated nourishment w.r.t. goal, long-term strategies, stakeholder involvement. For this purpose a design tool has been developed:
Interactive design tool
Step 5: Appropriate detailing
Once the location and general size and contours of the concentrated nourishment have been determined, further detailing of the nourishment and its development over time, has to be made. For this purpose several tools are made available increasing the level of detail and accuracy.
It is noted that other well reputed knowledge institutes offer comparable model suites.
Step 6: Construction and Monitoring
When a suitable design has demonstrated to be feasible, a dedicated construction and monitoring program needs to be initiated and maintained.
- During and after construction;
- Bathymetry, currents, waves, vegetation, topography, benthos, seals, fish, dune development and birds;
- Predicting swimming conditions.
On the right a couple of cases is presented providing some application experiences that can be used as inspiration for future designs
Below some characteristic data on the cases displayed on the right are summarised.
Volume per m
1,500 m³ / m
27 monthly surveys
Sand groynes Delfland
1,000 m³ / m
3 humps 100 x 50m size
7 surveys (2-5 weeks apart)
Surfing beach Scheveningen
500 m³ / m
straight edge (70m)
surveys & aerial photographs
Sand Engine Delfland
4,000 m³ / m
monthly surveys & aerial photographs
Sand Engines IJsselmeer
2* 25,000 m³
100 m³ / m
Peninsula / longshore reef
regular surveys & Lidar images & fibre optic measurements
+4,000 m³ / m+
> 10 years
Yearly cross-shore profile measurements & bathy surveys every 5 years
- Achete, F. (2011). Morphodynamics of the Ameland Bornrif: An analogue for the Sand Engine. MSc Thesis, TU Delft.
- Achete, F. and Luijendijk, A.P. (2012). Morphodynamics of the Ameland Bornrif: An analogue for the Sand Engine, ICCE 2012. Conference proceedings.
- Huisman, B. and Luijendijk, A.P. (2010). Approach for eco-morphological modelling of mega-nourishments along the Holland coast.Assessment of tools and approach for multi-scale modelling. BwN Report HK4.1.
- Huisman, B. and Luijendijk, A.P. (2011). Evaluation of nourishment strategies Holland Coast. BwN Report HK4.1.
- Van Rijn, L. (1998). Principles of Coastal Morphology. Aqua publications.
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