Green building is not just a trend anymore, it is making huge impacts all across the construction industry, whether by government regulation or market shifts. According to the US Green Building Council, the Green Construction Industry will account for 1/3 of all construction projects by the year 2018. That’s certainly something to pay attention to. But it’s not just building practices that are affected by green building trends, products are affected, as well. A startup company in Raleigh, North Carolina has a solution for the high carbon dioxide emissions created by firing bricks in kilns: growing them in a plant with bacteria and water.
BioMASON was founded by Ginger Krieg Dosier in 2012 after she took a deep look at how coral was formed, which is a very hard cement-like material grown strictly by nature. A standard brick used across the construction industry today is heated in a kiln at roughly 2000 °F (1090 °C) and most commonly use natural gas as fuel. This process has a huge impact on the environment, with some estimating up to 8% of all global carbon emissions.
Dosier’s bricks, however, require no heat to harden the material, only sand, bacteria, and water. After sand is packed into rectangular brick molds, bacteria is added, which begins a reaction that forms calcium carbonate crystals. As nutrient water is sprayed onto the molds, the crystals continue to grow, further hardening the brick. The entire process takes 4 days right now, but that is much faster than the naturally occurring process in nature.
After winning an international design award and earning a large prize for winning Richard Branson’s Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, the next big hurdle for bioMASON to pass will be the minds of construction professionals around the world. It’s not easy to get people to change from using products they’ve been using for decades, but they’re certainly going to give it a shot. In February, bioMASON is moving to a much larger facility, which will allow them to produce upwards of 5,000 bricks per day.
What would it take you to switch to using these bricks on your next job?
Full story: How This Startup Is Using Bacteria to Grow Bricks From Scratch | Inc
Asphalt is one of the world’s most popular pavement materials. Because of that, researchers and scientists are constantly looking for ways to improve upon it. Additives have been included in some asphalt mixes for years to improve strength, but recently researchers have been getting pretty clever with the types of additives they’re testing.
As great as a product as asphalt is, there’s no doubt that there is room for improvement. Scientists all over the world are trying to solve its most common issues, such as potholes, cracking, ice build-up, and storm water drainage. Los Angeles is now tackling another issue with the material: heat island effect.
In March of this year, Elon Musk announced that Tesla would begin taking orders on their Solar Roof Shingle concept. Tesla Solar Roof is a solar power roof system that eliminates the need for bulky solar panels installed over top of traditional roof materials. Instead, the shingles themselves, which come in a variety of different styles, are the solar panels.
At the company’s second quarter earnings report, Tesla announced that the first solar roof installations have been completed.
Standard vertical elevators have had it too good, for too long. After the first cable dependent elevator was unveiled in 1857, not much has changed in the elevator industry. They’re still using cable systems and still only going up and down. But not anymore. ThyssenKrupp has officially made a multi-directional elevator a reality.
There’s no shortage of company’s trying to improve the world’s roadways. Asphalt and concrete each have their own disadvantages, especially when maintenance environmental factors are taken into consideration. Plastic is a major problem for landfills, as well, as it can take an estimated 500 years to fully decompose. One UK company believes they can solve both maintenance and environmental problems through the use of recycled plastic.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is constantly researching ways to improve construction process and materials, like this material 10 times the strength of steel, or this solar cell that’s lighter than a soap bubble, or this “reversible concrete.” This time the Institute is showing off its autonomous robot that can spit out building structures on site within hours.
One of the most challenging issues with modular construction, of any kind, is the sheer size and weight of many of the components that need to be transported and lifted in place once onsite. That presents a specifically tough situation for jobsites that are not easy to get to. Arup, a design, engineering, and consulting team in the United Kingdom, has developed and successfully implemented what they say is the “world’s first modular glass-fiber, reinforced polymer bridge.” You may remember Arup from their testing of a “living wall” scaffolding cover that we wrote about last year.
Snow causes all kinds of travel nightmares and not just on the roads. Snow and ice can cause major airline delays and flight cancellations. Because of these issues (and the large amounts of money to be gained by solving them) several different groups of researchers have been hard at work figuring out ways to reduce and remove snow and ice from pavement without the need for chemicals and snow plows. The first technology to get a full scale test slab installed at an American airport, however, came from Iowa State University professor Halil Ceylan.
Maybe I’ve had my head in the sand for a while (forgive the pun right out of the gate), but I've recently found out that the world is suffering from a shortage of sand. The New York Times reports that the increasing demand of sand from manufacturing and construction in combination with rising sea levels and human development of shores is reaching crisis levels. Sand is used in plenty of construction activities, from mortar to concrete to brick and asphalt. We use a LOT of it. In fact, concrete production takes a whopping 80 percent of all the sand that is mined. So what can we do? One company says the answer is to drink more beer.
Solar roofs are an obviously popular choice for those interested in conserving energy, but traditional panels are extremely clunky and expensive. Tesla and CEO Elon Musk announced last year that they have solved that issue, which the impending release of Tesla Solar Roof, which look like a traditional roof shingle.