Not Another Brick in the Wall

Not Another Brick in the Wall

22nd February 2016

Today we’re continuing our series about the brick, that humble building material that has revolutionised the way in which we build houses, businesses, roads, bridges, etc.  Last week we looked at an exciting new project by architect Jack Munro who uses animal blood from abattoirs as a binding agent in a bid to create a cheaper, more eco-friendly building brick.  Today we have another fascinating story about bricks for you.

Architect turned scientist, Ginger Krieg Dosier has discovered a method of growing bricks and has founded a company called bioMASON in order to raise awareness of these amazing products.  bioMASON was launched in 2012 as a unique biotechnology start up manufacturing company and is committed to revolutionising the building industry with a natural process that involves micro-organisms and chemical processes to manufacture biological cement-based masonry building materials.

The innovative idea of growing building materials materialised from a study of coral structures – coral is an extremely hard cementitious material that’s created by nature with low energy and material inputs.  Dosier submitted her idea for the 2010 Next Generation international design awards held by Metropolis magazine and won the “Big Fix” award.  There was so much interest in this eco-friendly method of growing bricks rather than firing them, that Dosier then decided to launch bioMASON and gathered together a team of individuals from multiple disciplines to face the challenges of changing the building industry.  Take a look at her telling everybody about her exciting venture in the TED Talk video below – it’s quite short so it won’t take up too much of your day and it really is worth a watch.

It looks as if bioMASON is on the road to success having received a €500,000 from the 2013 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge to continue with her quest to produce bricks from sand and bacteria. 

The humble brick fits easily into the human hand and has been a building block of choice for centuries – just take a look at our blog post on the history of bricks.  With traditional style bricks being used in more than 80% of global construction projects, it’s suspected that the fabrication of bricks emits more than 800,000,000 tons of CO2 annually.  That’s a lot of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere – a situation that’s becoming unacceptable in these days of growing awareness of the need to address global warming.  Discovering new ways of building without damaging the environment is essential nowadays and green building techniques and materials are on the increase so Dosier’s ground-breaking research and development work is a welcome step in the right direction.

The fabrication process of these bio bricks begins with a bed of sand (a naturally abundant substance).  The liquid cement is mixed that includes bacteria which provide an environment for crystals to form, food for the bacteria, a nitrogen source, a calcium source and water.  This solution is poured over the sand in a mould and the process is repeated over five days until a solid material has formed.  When the food and water source run out, the bacteria die off.  The irrigation solution can be totally recycled via a closed loop system which both saves water and recaptures a by-product of the bacteria as a natural fertiliser.

If we reach a stage where bricks can be grown as easily as plant crops, we’re likely to enjoy a much more eco-friendly way of building in future years.