Seawalls are structures designed to protect shorelines against erosion and flooding. Typically, they form only one element of a broader coastal defense system that’s designed with several protections in case one should fail. Residents of seaside towns are familiar with the concept of a seawall, as are vacation visitors. There are a number of different ways of constructing one, depending on the needs which it must meet, and the availability of materials.
In some situations, a seawall is built on-shore to break large waves that would otherwise damage roads and structures on the shore. In these circumstances, several lower barriers might precede the wall to help dissipate the wave energy before it hits. Other seawalls are constructed in the water right near the shoreline – for example, on islands. Some countries also build them in open water to break up waves before they reach the shore, or to act as flood barriers.
Conventional seawalls are built from large pebbles, rocks and other rubble. Remains of ancient seawalls built in this style can be seen in many communities. Modern structures can be built from these materials, although they may integrate metal bars, concrete and other tools to make them sturdier. More affordable ones can be made of plastic or wood, which offer some protection, although in heavy weather, they can potentially fail.
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