Architect Wins Green Innovation Prize for Unique Brick Formula

Architect Wins Green Innovation Prize for Unique Brick Formula

An American architect in Abu Dhabi has won a prize for innovative design with a plan to produce green bricks by using sand, common bacteria, calcium chloride and urea (that's right, the compound found in urine) in a process called microbial-induced calcite precipitation.

Ginger Krieg Dosier, an assistant professor of architecture at American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, received this year's Metropolis Next Generation Design Prize for her idea of producing "biomanufactured" bricks as a substitute for clay-fired ones.

Metropolis magazine announced the award in an article published today.

More than 1.3 trillion bricks are manufactured around the world each year and more than 10 percent of them are made by hand in coal-fired ovens, according to Metropolis.

The magazine tallies the emissions from the baking process at 1.4 pounds of carbon per brick and says the total outstrips that of the aviation fleet worldwide. If Dosier's green bricks replaced every new brick on Earth, more than 800 million tons of CO2 could be avoided annually.

The potential for her process to reduce emissions on a broad scale captured the attention of judges (GreenBiz.com Chairman and Executive Editor Joel Makower was among them) and ultimately won her the prize. This year's contest called for entries that provide "One Design Fix for the Future."

"Ginger Dosier's achievement is a tribute not only to her own imagination and grit, but serves as an example of how designers can make an outsize contribution to creating a more sustainable world," said Metropolis Editor-in-Chief Susan Szenasy in a prepared statement. "We challenged the design community to produce a 'small (but brilliant and elegant) fix' for the designed environment. We were surprised that an object with no moving parts -- the brick -- could be redesigned in so profound a way."

No heat is involved in Dosier's process, just mixing. Sand is blended with a growth media consisting of non-pathogenic bacteria (sporosar), yeast extract, calcium chloride and water. The bacteria induce calcite precipitation in the sand and the result is a brick with properties similar to sandstone. Metropolis details a DIY-like version of the process and shared the images appearing in this article.

Dosier is not the first to make headlines an idea for making green bricks -- either from waste products or actual waste.

Cow dung is a key component of EcoFaeBricks, a concept that snagged a $25,000 first prize for a team from Indonesia's Prasetiya Mulya Business School in the 2009 Global Social Venture Competition, a contest organized by the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.

CalStar Products
manufactures bricks made from fly ash in a process that involves embodied energy and carbon dioxide emissions that are each 85 percent lower than clay-fired bricks.

Images courtesy of Metropolis.