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Algae-based concrete blocks

With their Bio-Block Spiral, architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), in collaboration with Prometheus Materials, showcases the potential of blocks created using microscopic algae.

The algae-based blocks are developed by Prometheus Materials, spin-off company of the University of Colorado. The blocks are made using naturally occurring microscopic algae that sequester carbon. The micro-algae is combined with water, sunlight and CO2. The resulting material is similar to calcium carbonate generated in coral reefs. When mixed with an aggregate, it forms a building material with similar or better physical and thermal properties as standard Portland cement-based concrete, with a net-zero carbon footprint.

Since traditional concrete, or rather, the main ingredient cement, causes about 8 per cent of global emissions, a net-zero concrete alternative has the potential to save a lot of CO2 emissions.

The Bio-Block Spiral is a prototype construction, located at 167 Green Street for the fifth edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Photos: Dave Burk / SOM