Biobricks – The Remaking of the Brick

The brick is a building block that can easily fit in your hand. It has been a universal and effective construction component for thousands of years. For the most part, the brick has been unchanged. Building anything using bricks takes little skill, material, or technology,  While we can all say the form and function of the brick has been mastered, its method of production requires reform. The making of a brick takes intense heat energy, applied in kilns that burn coal. A large quantity of agriculture soil is needed to make bricks and this leaves a significant ecological footprint. Each year, 1.23 trillion fired clay bricks are produced. About 75% of brick production occurs in India, China, and Pakistan. Productions sends over 800 million tons of CO2 into our atmosphere due to the burning of fuel that occurs in this process. Production of both clay bricks and cement produces particle matter that adds to human health risks. 2.4 million premature deaths can be attributed to black carbon each year.

American architect Ginger Krieg Dosier, has discovered a way to utilize a natural process found in common bacteria to fuse sand particles and create a “BioBrick.” To create a BioBrick, microorganisms are combined with sand and a solution of calcium chloride and urea which starts microbial-induced calcite precipitation, also called MICP for short. During this process the bacteria glues the grains of sand together to form a stone that looks and feels almost identical to a traditional brick.

Ginger Krieg Dosier Explains the process of creating a Biobrick

In nature, the MICP process has been slowly creating rock formations on Earth for billions of years. This process has only recently caught the attention of scientists and engineers who are motivated to harness it for human needs.

Dosier has recently began a biotechnology startup company called bioMASON which uses natural systems such as MICP for industrial manufacturing of BioBricks as well as biocement. Her methods eliminate waste while providing virtually limitless variation. BioBricks are made at room temperature, with no CO2 emissions and minimal dependency on natural fossil fuels. BioBricks can not only be made on site but also result in no waste during manufacturing.

One BioBrick takes from two to five days to grow at Dosier’s pilot plant in Durham, North Carolina. Compared to a regular brick that takes three to five days to make in a kiln, this shows huge potential in the future of masonry. The plant currently produces 500 bricks a week with the capacity for 1,500. The company is currently working on an order to pave a courtyard for a California based real estate agent. BioMASON is also preparing to take on cement manufacturers, which is an industry second to fossil fuels for global emissions.

The main advantage of using BioBricks is that the process itself doesn’t require any fuel. Materials needed for both BioBricks and biocement are inexpensive, globally abundant, and can even be sourced from waste byproducts. This green alternative could literally pave the way for a new environmentally friendly standard for sustainable architecture worldwide.

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