Bio-bricks: Cheaper, Greener, Building Material

LEED certification is a credential avidly sought by many businesses and homeowners, for both the bragging rights and the tax incentives LEED brings. Rising energy costs, awareness of the huge carbon footprint generated by traditional building methods, and the desire to spur local economies through sourcing materials locally has converged to drive the search for greener building materials. One new material is the so-called bio-brick.

Bricks are long-lasting, durable, and relatively inexpensive building materials. But due to the immense carbon footprint generated by the firing process, bricks aren’t necessarily the most ecologically sustainable building material. This drawback has led many materials scientists to start developing heat-free brick building methods.

University of Edinburgh design student Peter Trimble developed “Dupe,” a living, sustainable alternative to concrete. Dupe is made primarily from Sporosarcina pasteurii, sand, and urea. It requires 1/6 the amount of energy that is used to make traditional bricks. It has 70% the compression of concrete and it may be molded in-situ, which makes it ideal for use in developing countries. The process cam be employed by anyone with access to sand, bacteria, water, and urea can build with Dupe, and Trimble is currently working with NGO’s to use Dupe in Morocco.

Ginger Krieg Dosier, CEO of the North Carolina-based bioMASON, has developed a similar product. Inspired by the way coral reefs and shellfish build their shells, Dosier started developing her recipe, which also uses Sporosarcina pasteurii, sand, and urea, over several years of experimentation in her spare bedroom in Raleigh. After a stint teaching design in the United Arab Emirates, Dosier and her husband returned to the US with a perfected recipe, ready to seek capital. In 2012, BioMason was founded to produce bacteria-based bricks for sale to the residential homebuilding market.

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