Improving America’s infrastructure has been a major priority for the Obama Administration, with a lot of money going into repairing the country’s roads and bridges. The problem is that currently most roads are constructed from asphalt, a material made from oil that increases national fossil fuel usage, is expensive, and is damaging to the environment. However designers Thomas Kosbau and Andrew Wetzler have come with a plan for a greener alternative — a “biologically treated and processed paving material” that uses a common microbe to transform loose grains of stand into stable, road-worthy sandstone.

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The plan, called ‘Sand.Stone.Road‘ recently won the grand prize in the Korean green design ‘Iida Awards 2010‘, which were organized by Designboom in collaboration with Incheon Metropolitan City.

In the designers’ own words, “The world is suffering from a material found outside of every doorway. Asphalt has been used as the conventional paving material for the last 80 years. Extremely toxic chemicals are released in its production, installation, and are off-gassed throughout its lifetime. Asphalt greatly contributes to the Urban Heat Island effect, reaching peak temperatures of 48-67 degrees Celsius. At current consumption levels, approximately 28,000,000 barrels of crude oil were required to create South Korea’s 86,990 km roadway system. This is roughly 5 times the amount of oil released into the Gulf of Mexico. Our project proposes the use of an organic process to create sandstone from sand as an alternate paving surface, thereby mitigating the harmful effects of asphalt.

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The designers’ plan would create roads from abundantly available sand mixed with the microbe Bacillus Pasteurii, which would cement it into a biologically engineered hardened sandstone. The idea is that this sand/microbe solution could then be sprayed onto a layer of sand, which would then harden it into a tough road surface.

If the environmental benefits weren’t enough, the financial advantages may persuade many construction firms to switch to using sand. Asphalt rose in price by 222% from 2003 to 2008, and is set to only go up with oil prices increasing. Seeing as roads are essential parts of any country’s infrastructure, making them as green as possible should be a priority all around the world.

+ Iida Awards 2010

Via Design Boom