Ginger Krieg Dosier, a professor at the American University of Sharjah (my alma mater), invented an alternative to the traditional way of making bricks by using low-cost rapid-prototyping machines, sand, bacteria and pee.
The process starts with sand, which is then printed with a layer of bacteria, calcium chloride, and urea. Microbes in the sand react with that mixture, forming a glue that binds the sand together. The bricks are built up in the printer, layer by layer. Once the process is complete, the bricks can be as strong as marble.
Dosier dreams of replacing traditional bricks with her biomanufactured masonry which would reduce world-wide carbon emissions by “at least” 800 million tons a year. She recently won the Metropolis magazine 2010 Next Generation Design Competition, which aimed to find a “small and elegant” but also crucial fix that could have big-time impact if scaled-up.
This reminded me of an ambitious recent project by Magnus Larsson at the Architectural Association. He proposed to use a similar process to solidify parts of the Sahara desert into livable architecture. This may seem like science fiction, but it really does work (on a small scale). It makes me wonder what a large, state funded research project aimed at studying this process and applying it at a larger scale would lead to. Are you listening, KISR?