Concrete seawalls: A review of load considerations, ecological performance, durability, and recent innovations

Nima Hosseinzadeh, Mohammad Ghiasian, Esber Andiroglu, Joel Lamere, Landolf Rhode-Barbarigos, James Sobczak, Kathleen Sullivan Sealey, Prannoy Suraneni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Increasing frequency of extreme weather events, driven by climate change, coupled with growing population densities, have contributed to an increasing demand for coastal structures to protect and stabilize shorelines. Concrete seawalls are a common category of coastal protection structures, designed with the primary objectives of absorbing wave action, preventing coastline erosion, and alleviating flooding. Much research has been carried out on improving concrete seawall performance. This work is a review of the current state-of-the-art in concrete seawalls focusing on design aspects including wave loading and innovative seawall designs, ecological considerations, and durability performance. Different conventional seawalls and their advantages and disadvantages are reviewed. Wave loads on seawalls have received significant attention; and multiple approaches for the quantification for the different types of loads are presented. However, wave load quantification remains a challenging task, especially for novel designs, and performance under load for such designs must be quantified through testing in wave tanks. Drawing inspiration from natural shorelines, modification of surface complexity at a multitude of scales can improve the otherwise poor ecological performance of seawalls. Ecological performance can also be improved by the incorporation of natural materials or structures in seawalls although the exact influence of concrete and other material chemistry on benthic diversity is unclear. The corrosion of the steel is a major durability concern, and the use of non-corrosive reinforcement can increase seawall durability toward corrosion. Other durability concerns include alkali silica reaction and sulfate attack, which can be mitigated through proper mixture design, including through the use of supplementary cementitious materials. Examples of innovative seawall designs and systems which have the capability to outperform conventional seawalls are discussed. Advances in structural design, ecological engineering, and infrastructure materials science will drive the development of multi-functional seawalls which are sustainable, durable, and resilient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106573
JournalEcological Engineering
StatePublished - May 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Coastal protection
  • Design
  • Durability
  • Ecology
  • Seawall
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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