Biomanufactured Brick - Bricks Without Clay or Carbon

Biomanufactured Brick: Bricks Without Clay or Carbon

An American architecture professor, Ginger Krieg Dosier, 32, Assistant Professor of Architecture at American University of Sharjah (AUS) in Abu Dhabi, has won this year's prestigious Metropolis Next Generation Design Prize for "Biomanufactured Brick." The 2010 Next Generation Prize Challenge was "One Design Fix for the Future" - a small fix to change the world. The Next Generation judges decided that Professor Dosier's well-documented and -tested plan to replace clay-fired brick with a brick made with bacteria and sand, met the challenge perfectly.

"The ordinary brick - you would think that there is nothing more basic than baking a block of clay in an oven," said Horace Havemeyer, Publisher of Metropolis. "Ginger Dosier's idea is the perfect example of how making a change in an almost unexamined part of our daily lives can have an enormous impact on the environment."

There are over 1.3 trillion bricks manufactured each year worldwide, and over 10% are made by hand in coal-fired ovens. On average, the baking process emits 1.4 pounds of carbon per brick - more than the world's entire aviation fleet. In countries like India and China, outdated coal-fired brick kilns consume more energy, emit more carbon, and produce great quantities of particulate air pollution. Dosier's process replaces baking with simple mixing, and because it is low-tech (apart from the production of the bacterial activate), can be done onsite in localities without modern infrastructure. The process uses no heat at all:mixing sand and non-pathogenic bacteria (sporosar) and putting the mixture into molds. The bacteria induce calcite precipitation in the sand and yield bricks with sandstone-like properties. If biomanufactured bricks replaced each new brick on the planet, it would save nearly 800 million tons of CO2 annually.

Biomanufactured Brick

Professor Dosier, was trained as an architect (at Auburn University, Rural Studio, and Cranbrook Academy) and teaches architecture. But she studied microbiology, geology, and materials science in her spare time, most recently when she was teaching architecture at North Carolina State University. The results - which have been tested with Lego-sized bricks in research at AUS - impress architects and geologists alike. Grant Ferris, professor of geology at the University of Toronto, says that in all the scientific studies of microbial mineral precipitation, there has been little or no work on the "fabrication of construction or design materials," which is what makes the Next Generation winner's work "so compelling."

"There was a strong feeling among the judges that the award should go to someone dealing with an issue on a global scale," says Next Generation juror Chris Sharples, of SHoP Architects. "Here was a very simple concept defined by scientific method and an example of how you can come up with some very innovative ways to solve basic problems."

"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 Susan Szenasy, editor-in-chief of Metropolis. "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. But there were many entries that fully met the challenge of producing One Design Fix - and they show that the design community as a whole is overflowing with the imagination, knowledge, intuition, and skills to produce not just one but hundreds of fixes that can affect our planet today and for centuries to come."

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