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M II A II R II K Jul 15, 2020 5:17 PM

We've Been Using The Same Bricks For Over 5,000 Years. It's Time For A Change
We've Been Using The Same Bricks For Over 5,000 Years. This Engineer Says It's Time For A Change

13th July 2020

By Rebecca Cairns

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The brick as we know it causes significant environmental problems, by using up raw, finite materials and creating carbon emissions. That's why Gabriela Medero, a professor of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering at Scotland's Heriot-Watt University, decided to reinvent it. --- Enter the K-Briq. To make it, construction and demolition waste including bricks, gravel, sand and plasterboard is crushed and mixed with water and a binder. The bricks are then pressed in customized molds. Tinted with recycled pigments, they can be made in any color.

- In the UK, around 2.5 billion new bricks are used in construction every year -- and about the same number of old bricks are demolished. A seemingly simple solution to the brick production problem would be to re-use old bricks. But it's not that straightforward. According to Bob Geldermans, a climate design and sustainability researcher at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, reclaiming bricks is an expensive and "labor-intensive process." --- According to the UK's Brick Development Association, old brick structures need to be carefully dismantled and the bricks cleaned of mortar with hammers and chisels. Reclaimed bricks are used to help renovate historic buildings or for other specialized projects but for mass construction, the process is too costly. An additional barrier is that there's no standardized way to check the strength, safety or durability of reclaimed bricks.

- Medero says that K-Briqs could solve both these problems. According to Medero, the K-Briq will be comparably priced to conventional bricks. Additionally, as a new product, the K-Briq has been subjected to rigorous assessment at the materials testing lab at Heriot-Watt University, and certified by BBA (British Board of Agrement). Medero claims that K-Briqs are stronger and more durable than fired clay bricks, and provide better insulation, too. --- Over the next 18 months, Medero plans to get K-Briq machinery on-site at recycling plants. This will increase production while reducing transport-related emissions, she says, because trucks can collect K-Briqs when they drop off construction waste. "We need to have ways of building sustainably, with affordable, good quality materials that will last."


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