It takes an enormous amount of energy and resources to produce simple building materials such as concrete, bricks, and asphalt – however Ginger Krieg Dosier has developed a low-impact way to simply grow building blocks instead! Her award-winning company Biomason recently received 500,000 EUR (about $560,000 USD) from the 2013 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge to continue the groundbreaking work of producing bricks from sand and bacteria.
Easily able to fit in the human hand, modular, and strong, bricks are used in over 80 percent of global construction. According to Dosier and the Carbon War Room, 1.23 trillion bricks are created annually worldwide. It is estimated the fabrication of bricks emit over 800,000,000 tons of CO2 each year.
Dosier starts with sand as a substrate for her bricks due to its great natural abundance. Next, a liquid cement is prepared that includes bacteria to provide an environment for crystals to form, a nitrogen source, food for the bacteria, a calcium source, and water. The solution is placed over a bed of sand in a mold and repeatedly added over five days until a solid material has formed. Once the food and water source run out, the bacteria die. The irrigation solution is then fully recycled in a closed loop system to save water resources and recapture a byproduct of the bacteria as a natural fertilizer.
Currently, Dosier is working with teams in the US and UAE to scale up her process. They have found that the methods for growing bricks are similar to cultivating plants in greenhouses. In addition to the 2013 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge award, Biomason was the recipient of Metropolis magazine’s $10,000 Next Generation Design award in 2010.
Images via Siddharth Siva