The Great Barrier Reef has come under assault over the last few years. (Sorry Nemo fans, things aren’t going well.) Problems are being created due to climate change, which is causing increasingly strong storms that break reefs apart, disease passing amongst the organisms, bleaching, and pollution all add to the problem, but the largest culprit is the crown of thorns starfish. These starfish are responsible for about 30% of the recent destruction to the coral reefs alone. The Great Barrier Reef used to cover about 50 percent of Australia back in the 90’s but now estimates put it at closer to 16 percent, and if the current pattern remains the same, it could drop to as low as 5% in the next 20 years.
Luckily, architect James Gardiner is working on methods that could be instrumental in preserving the Reef, and even helping it to regain much of the ground it has lost. Working together with David Lennon’s Reef Design Labs, he designed a series of low-cost reef units that can help combat the effects of reef erosion and help protect the underwater environment. He does this with the help of 3D printing. The 3D printing process allows for the team to create complex organic structures that look more natural than the traditional forms of man-made coral reefs, which tend to be shaped like pyramids or cubes. This gives the coral reef more ability to function and grow, and makes them less likely to be torn down by storms. The porous sandstone like material of the 3D printed objects also creates an ideal surface for coral life to latch on to and grow from. You can see the video of Reef Design Lab’s printer below.