Bio-Bricks - The Future of Construction
Traditional construction materials such as brick, concrete and steel rely heavily on limited natural resources and use a lot of energy and water to produce. Concrete is one of the most energy intensive materials and uses limestone shale converted into Portland cement through high-heat processes.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the construction industry accounts for 40% of the world's C02 emissions.
Experts have started to design houses out of hemp and straw and make bricks made of mushrooms or sand and bacteria in order to relieve pressure on natural resources and to reduce construction's carbon footprint.
I've written a couple of articles on building houses with Hemp and Straw - see urls below. This article is going to focus on bricks made of mushrooms or bacteria & sand.
bioMason is growing bricks cultivated from sand by microorganisms, this process eliminates the need for firing by replacing the curing/hardening process with the formation of biologically controlled structural cement.
Ginger Dosier, the North Carolina-based company's founder and CEO, discovered the bacterial production process while studying the construction of coral reefs. "I realised that, as with teeth, the building block is calcium carbonate," she explains. "This crystallises due to changes in the surrounding pH caused by microorganisms in the coral."
The bioMASON process begins with sand. It is placed into moulds and inoculated with Sporosarcina pasteurii bacteria, which are sustained with calcium ions suspended in water. "The ions are attracted to the bacterial cell walls, creating a calcium carbonate shell which causes particles to stick to each other," Dosier says.
A brick made by bioMason takes 2-5 days to make, whereas a conventional clay or concrete brick takes 3-5 days to make. "We can make bricks that glow in the dark, bricks that absorb pollution, bricks that change colour when wet," Dosier says.
."The advantage of our process is that it doesn't require fuel," Dosier says. "The next step is enabling customers to grow bricks on site. We are looking at a powder or syrup that we can ship around the world, You just add water."
Peter Trimble - a design student a Edinburgh University, was working on a module on sustainability, when he stumbled on "Dupe," an alternative to concrete.
A lab technician introduced Trimble to Sporosarcina pasteurii, a bacterium with binding qualities, sometimes used to solidify soil to hold road signs in place. Peter tested it with sand. Pumping bacterial solution into a sand-filled mold, he added nutrients, urea and calcium.
The process requires less than one-sixth of the energy used in concrete production, and is completely biodegradable. Trimble believes his method is simple and can be used by anyone, anywhere.
"Imagine a Tsunami-hit farm in Indonesia that is not getting supplies. You could use sand and bacteria on site, practically free, and have shelter housing that is far more permanent."
Trash to treasure: Organic
bio-bricks made from mushrooms
New York firm Ecovative are producing materials that combine agricultural waste products such as corn stock with mushroom mycelium (roots). Over five days the mycelium binds the waste to create a block with a stronger compressive strength than concrete, with none of the heat or energy required by regular bricks.
Hy-Fi is an award-winning tower made of mushrooms and cornstalks by New York Architecture Firm The Living.
Hi-Fy isn’t the only
project to incorporate Ecovative’s material from mushrooms. According to
the company, designers around the globe are working to incorporate the
sustainable substance into high-end lampshades, plant holders, and an
eco-friendly surfboard dubbed “El Portobello.”
Ecovative believe that in addition to being renewable and decomposable, natural properties give them a performance advantage. "It has great insulation properties", says Sam Harrington, Director of Sustainability at Ecovative . "A key benefit is flame resistance -- without adding any chemicals we were able to achieve a Class A fire rating".
Eco-Friendly, Sustainable building methods as an alternative to concrete, bricks, glass & steel are gaining ground. Whether it be old building techniques such as using straw bales or wattle & daub to new technologies outlined in this article alternative building materials are often stronger than conventional ones, have better insulation properties and have a very low carbon footprint.
I love Architecture. I think it's
vital to talk about all aspects of Architecture - whether it be planning,
construction, design or green building. I have written 3 E-Books & over 110 articles. Please feel free to
let me know if you have any queries regarding architecture, planning &
construction & I will assist you.
originally from the UK and
moved to South Africa
in 1999. I started Blue Designs in 2004 after working as a driver for Avalon Construction on a luxury home in the Featherbrook Estate. In my spare time I am an artist and writer.
Call Claire - 011 025 4458
Other articles I have written include :-
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