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Accoya® fender shows outstanding resilience in River Thames, London

January 5, 2023

Environment Agency specifies additional Accoya fenders after trial shows outstanding durability and sustainability.

Nine fenders installed along the Thames beside the famous Cutty Sark

Following a successful trial the Environment Agency’s TEAM 2100 has chosen to commission and install a further nine Accoya fenders along the banks of the Thames.

TEAM2100 is the Environment Agency’s 10-year programme to refurbish and replace tidal flood defences in London and the Thames Estuary.

In 2020, the Environment Agency agreed to trial and test an Accoya fender at Duke Shore Wharf, with wood being donated by Accsys via International Timber. The Agency was looking for a resilient, stable and durable alternative to hardwood that could offer improved sustainability credentials whilst continuing to promote a healthy and diverse marine habitat.  The fenders are an essential part of flood risk management assets in the Thames Estuary.

After two years of positive performance at Duke Shore Wharf the Environment Agency has commissioned nine further fenders at Deptford Walls, Greenwich. These fenders were installed in September 2022. To provide biodiversity benefits, the innovative design for the nine new fenders, created by Glasgow University and Kings College London, included habitable spaces for marine life (see diagram).

“Choosing materials that are sustainable and that consider the effects of their production on the environment is a key goal of our flood risk management programme.  Certification processes, such as the Cradle to Cradle Certified® Products Program, help achieve this and permit identification of materials that consider the effects of their production on the environment, minimise energy and water use and aid social fairness. Finding a viable, sustainable substitute for hardwood has been an important goal of ours,”  said Dr Jo Guy, of the Environment Agency’s TEAM2100, Environment and Sustainability Manager.

John Alexander, Group Director of Sales, Accsys commented: “The Thames water is a tough environment with brackish salt water and active marine organisms, which rapidly degrade all but the most durable wood types. It’s a real endurance test for a wood product and the performance is in line with our expectations after running sea trials of up to 13 years from the Pacific Ocean to the North Sea.”

The fenders are being used by the Environment Agency’s TEAM2100 programme as proof of concept that it can replace hardwood, provide habitat and contribute to achieving the organisation’s Circular Economy, Net Zero, Environmental Net Gain, and Social Value sustainability ambitions.

Regenerative design consultancy, 540 WORLD worked with Accsys, Jacobs, Balfour Beatty and TEAM2100 to implement this important sustainability initiative, with a view to more widespread substitution of slow-growing hardwood with fast-growing, rapidly carbon-sequestering and very durable Accoya. The lack of toxic or plastic-based additives to Accoya is vital to its use in these environments, eliminating the risk of potential leaching into the water and environmental or ecological harm

Each cubic metre of Accoya contains nearly one tonne of CO2 absorbed by certified sustainable forests, which keeps that carbon safely stored for decades. This installation in the Thames Estuary will provide further data on long-term performance, adding to the consensus of positive data that Accsys has collected from sites in the Mediterranean and North Seas.