What a Concept!
Growing bricks in a lab
The inspiration: Producing a brick, which requires mining clay or shale, then firing it in a kiln at thousand-degree temperatures, leaves a heck of a carbon footprint. "All to make something that can't compare to the structural efficiency of a simple seashell," says architect Ginger Krieg Dosier, who, as a little girl in Alabama, was obsessed with collecting shells. Dosier resolved to channel the genius of nature into a greener building block: Consulting chemists and microbiologists, she began harvesting bricks in a laboratory by mixing sand with a solution of bacteria and other compounds, which crystallize and cohere into a block as rigid as cement and as tawny as the desert. A professor at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, Dosier hopes her seashell-inspired bricks can someday replace their old-school counterparts en masse, slashing annual carbon emissions by hundreds of millions of tons.