The bricks of your homes may soon be grown in a mold rather than baked in a kiln.
At least, that is what the winner of the recent Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Challenge, bioMASON, is looking to achieve with the biobrick.
Employing natural microorganisms and chemical processes to manufacture biological cement-based masonry building materials, the biobrick is made from bacterial byproducts that cement sand particles together in a matrix strong enough to use for home construction.
All of the materials used in the production of biobricks are globally abundant, and can be extracted from various waste streams, such as urea and common bacteria grown with yeast and salt extracts.
Made in ambient temperatures, the cementation process takes about five days to form, with the resulting product comparable in terms of cost and quality to traditional masonry bricks.
The creators, including bioMASON founder and CEO Ginger Krief Dosier, are also experimenting with using seawater to bring the product to remote areas short on fresh water.
bioMASON grows its own materials by employing microorganisms. Image: biomason.com
The biobrick machine
Currently, bricks are most commonly made from clay, molded and fired in a kiln. However, the firing process releases a range of pollutants, and is energy-intensive, giving the material a high carbon footprint.
According to Dosier, 1.23 trillion bricks are created annually worldwide, which emits an estimated 800 million tons of CO2 each year. The biobrick technology combats this problem, utilising nature’s bacteria to produce a market-viable, green alternative to cement-based masonry products.
Taking its cue from nature, the Cradle to Cradle Production Innovation Challenge’s runner-up Ecovative has also found an innovative way to grow insulation – right in the walls of our homes.
The Ecovative Mushroom Insulation is a structurally rigid insulation that seeks to replace traditional plastic foam insulation.
Containing no formaldehyde or potentially harmful volatile organic compounds, the mushroom insulation is made from a combination of agricultural byproducts, such as plant stalks and seed husks, and fungal mycelium, a natural and self-assembling binder that gives the product its insulative properties.
Ecovative Mushroom Insulation
The fungus can be grown in a mold or inside a wall cavity where, within three days, the mycelium grows and solifies the loose particles into air-seaked insulation, while creating an extremely strong sandwich. The result is similar to a structural insulating panel (SIP); this layer of continuous insulation has no thermal bridging.
The Ecovative Mushroom Insulation can also be used as a spray-on foam insulation, blown onto a wall in a structure. Over the course of a month, the Mushroom Insulation naturally dries and goes dormant. Mushrooms will only fruit through gaps or due to improper construction, but can be easily trimmed off with a knife before they produce spores.
ROMA Domus Mineral Paints and ECOR Universal Construction Panels tied for third place in the Challenge. Domus Mineral Paints are interior paints which are washable, toxin-free, free from asthmagens, and made from natural products. A gallon of mineral paint is expected to cover twice the area of acrylic paints.
ECOR’s sustainable building panels are made from waste cellulose fiber, a material technology made from a ubiquitous raw material found world-wide. The panels are lightweight, compact, and designed for easy assembly, integrated solar panels, battery storage, and electrical and plumbing systems.
Held by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute in partnership with the Make it Right organisation, the Challenge seeks to inspire innovators to recreate and retool the way products are designed, manufactured and consumed. It is targeted at manufacturers.
To find out more, please visit http://www.c2ccertified.org/challenge.