More than 1 trillion traditional bricks are produced in the world yearly, emitting an estimate 800 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmostphere.  FFVC alum bioMASON, a start-up biotechnology manufacturing company, plans to revolutionize the building and construction industry by “growing” bricks.

For CEO and founder Ginger Dosier, the idea to grow bricks emerged from studying coral, a very hard material created by nature with low energy and material inputs. “Why can’t we grow a material similar to seashells and coral reefs?” she asked herself.  “If it is possible to do this in the oceans at ambient temperatures, how can we mimic that process on a commercially viable scale?”

The formal inception of bioMASON began as a response to an overwhelming positive reaction after winning an international design award: Next Generation “The Big Fix” by Metropolis magazine. Submitted for the award was a proposal for a brick that was “grown” in contrast to being “fired.” The process has since been refined and continually optimized for increased performance and reduced production costs.

Not only does this cutting edge process eliminate the carbon dioxide emissions associated with firing, it removes carbon from the atmosphere because the bacteria are producing a calcium carbonate formation (using calcium, carbon and oxygen).  The process also has the potential to remove pollution from the environment in other ways; agricultural animal waste could be used as a nitrogen source, and it might even be possible to design the irrigation system to use and treat wastewater.

And, according to Dosier, “Bricks are just the beginning.” The same process could be used to create many items currently made of concrete, such as paving stones and cinderblocks. With a number of high-profile contests and cash awards under her belt, she’s well on her way to future innovation.