Gallery: Creating Roads From Sand and Bacteria Instead of Oil


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.

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.

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


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  1. Peter Brooks November 16, 2014 at 11:12 am

    I saw two story building that used eroded granite sand with 8% Kaolin and have dampened granite sand with enough cement paste to hold damp grains together and kept it moist but not wet to temper it and suggest high strength road surfaces could be made the same way by rolling mix of blue metal aggregate and granite sand ,

  2. laserbob2k January 13, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    great! Now get the cities to take a look at it, experiment and move forward.

  3. jamesff November 8, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Or they can use concrete wich can last up to 50 years with little maintence. It may be more expensive, but it’s long life would more than make up for it.

  4. martin calisto November 7, 2010 at 2:22 am

    This is absolutely amazing !
    I what to see how tough these roads really are tho…
    If they can hold heavy traffic I hope to drive on them very soon.

  5. metis November 2, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    love the concept, i’m less certain about the practice. roads swell and shrink in exposure, and i’m curious to how this would be repaired. i’m also nervous about the quality of roadbed, sandstone is remarkably soft, and i can see this eroding fairly quickly under light traffic.

    as a replacement for rural roads, i’m not certain that even a few inches of rigid stone would wear as well as gravel under heavy farm equipment.

    now, for sidewalks it may have more potential.

  6. closetheloop November 2, 2010 at 8:51 am

    It’s just this kind of thinking that’ll lead us away from dependence on foreign oil and use alternative (abundant) materials (only if they used recycled glass sand for roads ~ that’s the next leap)! We generate 13 million tons of waste glass annually, the time is right to truly “close the loop” and put our mountains of waste material to good use!

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