The Galveston seawall and the Texas City dike have served the gulf coast well. Both structures have recently been repaired after hurricane Ike. But, Is it time to for a high tech seawall that could adjust to different types of disasters both natural and man made ?
Dr C. Vipulanandan from the University of Houston or Dr Vipu as his students like to call him has a proposal for a new type of seawall. Dr Vipu is lab testing the idea of a seawall that would work like a window shutter. Instead of lowering like a window shutter, this high tech shutter would rise out of the ocean using compressed air. The wall would be constructed of rust resistant polymer wrapped steel and reinforced concrete materials. The wall would be buried in the ocean and rise to various heights depending on the threat it had to overcome. The design elements help keep shipping lanes open for commerce and enhance energy conservation. Since the wall will be submerged, geothermal energy derived from the wall can be used to help offset energy demands during the summer. Oil spills like the Deep Water Horizon rig can be contained. Imagine every shallow offshore rig with a ring of these protective devices to prevent oil from seeping out.
One of the best features of this design according to Dr Vipu is that when it is not needed it can be stowed away out of site until the next threat appears. The initial cost estimates are 10-20 million per 100 feet of shutter. The cost would be absorbed by not having to rebuild after a hurricane surge and some energy savings from geothermal applications.