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Natural 'Grown' Bricks Could Revolutionize Disaster Relief

Jul 28, 2014 04:09 PM EDT
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Natural bio-waste bricks might become the future of disaster relief if a handful of up-and-coming architects have their way. The bricks can be made from various local materials, and are literally "grown" using a special fungus.
(Photo : Pixabay)

Natural bio-waste bricks might become the future of disaster relief if a handful of up-and-coming architects have their way. The bricks can be made from various local materials, and are literally "grown" using a special fungus.

If you were to find yourself in the courtyard of MoMA PS1, an offshoot of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, you are bound to notice the unusual white tower dominating the space.

Made of 10,000 chalky and off-white bricks, this sweeping structure is not just your standard display of artistry and highfaluting ideals. The tower, called Hy-Fi, is a statement of efficiency and environmental consciousness.

As the winner of this year's Young Architects Program competition, the Hy-Fi will serve as some aesthetically unique shade for the PS1's Warm Up Summer concert series. It's also a "prototype for the architecture of the future," at least according to principle architect David Benjamin.

Benjamin is a member of a group of environmentally conscious architects and engineers called The Living. Featured in Intel and Vice's "The Creators Project," Benjamin explained that Hy-Fi showcases a remarkably practical technology.

"In this project, we're using a living organism as a factory. So the living organism of ... hyphae, which is basically a mushroom root, basically makes our bricks for us," the architect said. "It grows our bricks in about five days with no energy required, almost no carbon emissions, and it's using basically waste - agricultural byproducts, chopped up cornstalks. This mushroom root fuses together this biomass and makes solid bricks which we can kind of tune to be different properties."

Growing bricks from bio-mass is cool enough, but The Living didn't stop there. The malleability of Benjamin's bricks allow his team to control the strength, flexibility, and even water-resistance of the structures they build.

They can even be structured to "withstand hurricane winds,"  crafted from local debris, and be easily broken down to quickly biodegrade once they are no longer needed. That, according to Benjamin, makes them ideal in disaster situations where people are desperate for temporary shelter.

Pedro Gadanho, a curator in MoMA's Department of Architecture and Design, agreed with this sentiment, adding that the low cost of the bricks could impact more than just temporary shelters.

"This material could really change the way people build," he told the New York Times.

You can find out more about the project here.

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