Assistant architecture professor Ginger Krieg Dosier recently unveiled a new breed of biologically “grown” bricks that are durable, sustainably manufactured, and easily produced from readily available materials. Called “Better Bricks,” the building material can be “grown” from sand, common bacteria, calcium chloride, and urea (yes, the stuff in your pee) instead of being baked, which consumes a ton of energy. The concept, which recently won Metropolis Mag‘s 2010 Next Generation design competition, may seem simple, but it has the potential to have a global impact when you consider that producing the 1.23 trillion bricks manufactured per year right now creates more pollution than all the airplanes in the world!
Better Bricks were conceived by Ginger Krieg Dosier, an assistant architecture professor, in a lab at the American University of Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates, as a solution to the enormous environmental impact of producing all of the bricks the world needs each year. “We’re running out of all of our energy sources,” said Dosier in a March phone interview. “Four hundred trees are burned to make 25,000 bricks. It’s a consumption issue, and honestly, it’s starting to scare me.”
The process behind the innovative new brick is known as microbial-induced calcite precipitation, or MICP, and utilizes microbes on sand to “glue” the grains together using a chain of chemical reactions. And the end product is fairly strong – according to Metropolis Mag, it resembles sandstone but can be as strong as fired-clay brick or even marble depending on how it is made.
Congratulations to Ms. Dosier and the Better Brick. When it comes to designing a solution that may seem basic and small but has a far-reaching positive global impact, this brick definitely ticks all of the boxes. To put the numbers into perspective, if the Better Brick replaced each new brick on Earth, it would reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by at least 800 million tons a year!
Photos by Siddharth Siva