The REEF DESIGN LAB is a not for profit design studio and think tank based in Melbourne Australia providing innovative new eco-engineering products for architects, engineers and developers that want to increase the ecological value of their rock walls, jetties, marinas and canal estates.
Out of respect for marine life, RDL is passionate about seeing 'better design below the waterline' and creating ecologically sensitive reef units advancing the effectiveness of purpose built reef units and eco-engineering of marine infrastructure such as jetties, rock walls, marinas and canal estates.
We are very proud to have one of our reef units designs (MARS) voted one of the top ten inventions of 2015 by Popular Science magazine, and winner of the Dyson Australia innovation award 2014.
Our Design Philosophy
Our design philosophy is centred around 4 core beliefs:
- Engineering design of man-made structures such as jetties, rock walls and marinas can include design features that create opportunities for nature rather than take them away and thus help maintain or even enhance biodiversity.
- Our Oceans receive enough ugly waste from society as it is and have enough natural beauty removed, therefore out of respect for our oceans, we believe in striving for more natural and respectful design of artificial reef units.
- Building and designing 'homes' for our fish friends and other marine life is one of the best ways to appreciate and understand what they need to survive and how we can help save them. As a species we have passed the point of just preventing further damage to marine habitats - we need to rapidly start developing and trialing ways to repair the damage already done. Experimenting with different reef designs and manufacturing technologies is an essential step in this process.
- Protective space - our fundamental guiding principle in all our designs.
The concept of 'protective space' is a concept developed by RDL co-founder David after more than 20 years designing and watching how marine life use natural habitat, constructed reef units and other man-made structures.
'Protective space' is the recognition that fauna and flora are largely driven by first the need to avoid being eaten and secondly a need for protection from the natural environment such as water currents and sunlight.
Protective space in our reef unit designs covers the micro scale - surface texture invisible to the naked eye - up through the meso scale where we carefully include gaps and holes that provide protective space within each reef unit - right up through to the macro scale where we consider the protective space provided by the 'gaps' between reef units and even between reefs which can be 100's of meters.
At the micro scale we engineer the protective spaces provided by the materials surface to provide protection from grazing or water currents for bacteria, coral or shellfish larvae, or seaweed spores to settle and become established and hence start the food chain on the reef. We also have the option to design our units with micro surfaces that prevent the growth of competing biota such as algae that can smother coral larvae trying to set up home.
At the meso scale we carefully look at every surface, line and corner in our reef units and aim to include the right size and number of protective spaces to suit the target species and application. It is well documented that diversity of reef habitat is the key driver of diversity of species on a reef. Therefore we aim to maximise the protective space provided by our reef units and ensure no surface is wasted.
Hills Young Australian Design Award for Sustainability
James Dyson Award Australia
An immense appreciation and love for the ocean
A frustration with the wasted opportunity created by coastal structures that add millions of cubic meters of new habitat to the world's oceans but fail to consider and include habitat for marine life
- A belief that we are at the cusp of a new era in coastal engineering and architectural design as it progresses from a focus on 'designing a structure to meet accepted aesthetics and withstand the aquatic elements for a specified number of years without falling down' - to a design philosophy that recognises that 'artificial structures have an obligation to provide useful productive habitat for marine life where possible and thus help maintain biodiversity rather than reduce it'. In essence, eco-engineering a sustainable design that takes responsibility for maintaining the ecosystem for future generations.