Global design firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill has partnered with Prometheus Materials, a maker of zero-carbon building materials, to design and produce microalgae-based bricks and bio-concrete.
Replacing traditional carbon-heavy concrete materials – currently responsible for 8% of the world’s total Carbon Dioxide emissions – with a zero-carbon bio-concrete could rapidly accelerate the transformation of building construction into a carbon-free industry, according to a news release from both companies. As the need to decarbonize buildings becomes more urgent, the materials offer a promising, immediate, zero-carbon alternative to traditional, concrete-based building materials.
The material is created using naturally occurring microalgae – a microscopic algae that naturally sequesters carbon – and a patent-pending photosynthetic biocementation process. Microalgae is combined with water, sunlight and CO2 to create a material which is chemically similar to the calcium carbonate biodynamically generated in coral reefs and oyster shells. When mixed with aggregate, this bio-cement creates a net zero-carbon building material with mechanical, physical, and thermal performance properties comparable or superior to portland cement-based concrete.
The cross-industry partnership is an extension of Urban Sequoia, a design concept SOM unveiled at the United Nations COP26 Climate Conference, which envisions “forests” of buildings that sequester carbon and produce biomaterials to create a new carbon economy and a resilient urban environment.