UAE Prof. Ginger Dosier Grows Sand Bricks, Naturally

ginger-dosier-american-universityThe Better Brick? Although kinks need to be worked out, applying microbiological principles to design could revolutionize building materials. This researcher says she’s found a way to “grow” bricks from sand and urine.

Finally! Suzanne LaBarre of brings us a design worth writing home about. In the same tradition as Hassan Fathy and architects of this living building in Jerusalem, 32-year-old Ginger Dosier has grown her own bricks.

After 111 failed experiments, the Assistant Architecture Professor from the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates discovered that a winning combination of sand, common bacteria, calcium chloride and urea (which has putrefied for an optimum amount of time) creates a baby brick that is as strong as clay and marble.

According to La Barre, traditional bricks are environmental trolls that each emit 1.3 pounds of CO2.

She claims that the annual international manufacture of 1.23 trillion bricks is more polluting than airplanes.

grow your own brick photoThough I’m skeptical of these figures, Dosier’s bricks could potentially reduce CO2 emissions by 800 million tons per year, while saving thousands of trees.

The science used to create the lego-sized bricks is called microbial-induced calcite precipitation (MICP).


Essentially, Dosier discovered that microbes in the sand can be convinced to bind grains together.

For her ingenuity and perseverance, she was awarded the 2010 Metropolis Next Generation Design, which called for a “small fix” for the environment.

There are downfalls that need to be addressed:  the MICP process results in an ammonia byproduct that has concentrations which LaBarre says are 320 times more potent than CO2.

ginger bricks sand photoBut Dosier is not phased, and already has ideas to collaborate with other scientists to create a closed-loop method of trapping the emissions before they are released.

Additionally, compared to clay bricks that cook in 2 days, Dosier’s bricks need a week to be coaxed into life.  And sand is a finite resource.  If we get too excited, all the world’s deserts and beaches will be turned to brick.

Nonetheless, if the kinks are worked out, this earth-based design has the potential to spread like wildfire among builders.

In the meantime, Dosier hopes to build pilot buildings for Bedouins in the desert bordering the UAE and Saudi Arabia.  We’re eager to see them sprout.

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More green building genius From the Middle East:

Qatar Seeks to Solar Power the 2022 World Cup

Geotectura’s Visual Feast, Out of the Box

Zaha Hadid: One of TIME Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People

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