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Smart Construction Materials: Alternative Bricks

Alice-India Garwood
by Alice-India Garwood on March 13, 2019

If there’s one thing we love at Bobtrade it’s sustainable alternatives. And when they measure up as stronger or more efficient, all the better!

We’ve researched some of the coolest and most unlikely brick alternatives we can find for you to learn more about.

So, without delay, let’s talk wool. Would you believe that bricks made using wool are actually stronger than traditional fired bricks?

"Would you believe that bricks made using wool are actually stronger than traditional fired bricks?"

This is a combined effort with Spanish and Scottish researchers working on the project.

Wool bricks are made by mixing wool fibres and an alginate (extract of seaweed) to clay, making them stronger than traditional bricks according to a study produced in 2010.

Obviously they don't actually look like this, but you get where we're going with this.

wool bricks cashmere, building supplies, building materials, construction innovation bobtrade[Photo Credit: Cabinet of Curiosities]

Because these bricks are made without firing the researchers have stated:

"This is a more sustainable and healthy alternative to conventional building materials such as baked earth bricks and concrete blocks."

Not convinced by wool? Well, how about cigarette butts?

Scientists and environmentalists are currently working with construction companies to develop new technology that also reduces existing societal problems. Kate Horowitz recently reported on the use of cigarette butts in brick making and pavement creation by engineers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.

Researchers found that changing a brick’s composition to just one percent cigarette waste reduced the energy needed to fire it by 58 percent. In pavement studies, the addition of cigarette butts also reduced the amount of heat conducted, meaning the material would keep cities cooler. Considering Australia smokes at least 21 billion cigarettes per year, there’s a huge opportunity to reduce the cost of making building materials while reducing the number of butts going to landfills or ending up as litter.

brick innovation construction bobtrade building supplies marketplace[Photo Credit: ArchDaily]

Carbon reduction is a massive point of conversation in brick manufacturing. The firing of bricks can be incredibly detrimental to the environment. So, say hello to the Eco BLAK brick and the Breathe Brick.

"Carbon reduction is a massive point of conversation in brick manufacturing."

Pollution eating bricks and concrete is a fabulous development for the industry.

The Breath Brick is a great example of this.

The bricks act as a part of the ventilation of the building essentially breathing in the bad air and depositing the heavy pollutant particles in to the bottom of the brick using cyclone filtration, a method used in modern vacuum cleaners. The bottom part of the wall is removable to allow it to be emptied and cleaned.

Then there is the MIT Eco BLAK Brick.

This brick has been invented as an alternative to kiln fired bricks in areas where hundreds and thousands of bricks are produced every year. In places like India this is the case, the process creates a lot of nasty unclean matter that is left behind and really bad for the environment. With the BLAK brick, it is made from 70% boiler ash waste (which usually ends up in landfill) and the other 30% is lime, sodium hydroxide and clay. Using alkali-activation this means the bricks do not need firing and reduce the negative environmental impact of having to fire bricks.

bricks eco brick innovation, building supplies marketplace, sustainability bobtrade[Photo Credit: MIT]

Are you as excited by this as we are?!

Have you ever used any of these alternatives? How about some others? Let us and other builders know by joining the conversation on the Bobtrade Community.

Are you looking to buy building materials? Check out our new online marketplace for building supplies. An easy way to get the cheapest prices from multiple merchants on over 100,000 products and counting. Join our closed Beta by signing up here.

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Tags: Sustainability

Alice-India Garwood

Alice-India Garwood

Content Marketing Executive at Bobtrade. Interested in design, sustainability and the history of construction. I love all things indie and theatrical.