A group of students at the University of Waterloo in Canada has developed a process for growing bricks using bacteria, which could be much better for the environment and safer for construction workers.
“Right now, the building supplies industry accounts for 23% of global CO2 emissions,” said Adrian Simone, a member of the University of Waterloo student team that developed the Bio-Brick.
This week, the technology received national attention after being named a runner-up for the James Dyson Award.
“The number of green options available to builders right now is insufficient, there aren’t enough,” Simone said. “The ones that are available are completely overpriced, so most people, most builders, simply cannot use them.”
Simone previously worked for an asphalt paving company as a project manager. He stated that what he witnessed on the job site inspired him to seek a safer alternative for workers.
“I’d notice that in the middle of the summer, a lot of the guys out there laying this asphalt are standing in front of this 120 degree molten tar and the fumes coming off of it, and it’s having horrible effects on their health.”
He believes that the traditional brick-making process may cause long-term illnesses and injuries.
“The amount of burns that would happen on site were extremely high,” he said, noting that workers would get second degree burns on their shins despite several safety measures in place.
How does it function?
Bio-Brick technology is still in the prototype stage.
Simply put, the brick is made at room temperature by using bacteria to slowly grow a brick in a mould.
One of the creators, Rania Al-Sheikhly, stated that the brick can be easily grown on-site for any construction project.
“The bacteria can be grown in a similar manner to fermentation tanks for beer and other similar products, so it does not need to be kept in a sterile environment; it simply needs to be able to grow in a room temperature container for a day or so before being used.
Bacteria are introduced to a nutrient broth, which they feed on and which allows them to multiply. Then we take our mold, fill it with sand, and mix in the bacteria. We drain it after a few hours, add some solution, and repeat the process for a few days until it solidifies into a brick.”
She claims that recycled sand or demolition waste can be mixed in to make the Bio-Brick, which is as strong and affordable as traditional construction bricks.