Monday, May 4, 2009

Would You Live in a House Made of This Material?

All photos courtesy of EcoFaeBrick.

Fast Company asks the question “Would you live in a house made of shit?” They are referring to the newest building material on the market – EcoFaeBrick. The brick is 20% lighter and 20% stronger than clay brick; it prevents environmental damage caused by clay mining; reduces carbon emissions; there's no expensive start-up costs; the raw materials are plentiful (as indicated by the piles of bricks above) and increases the income of local farmers.

Did I mention the brick is made from cow dung?

While, cow dung isn't usually thought of as a house-building material, a team of students from Prasetiya Mulya Business School in Indonesia took materials that were at hand, applied great ingenuity and creativity to came up with the brick. The bricks are both high-quality and low-cost. In fact, the students’ invention won $25,000 top prize at the University of California, Berkeley's Global Social Venture Competition.

The Global Social Venture Competition website says this about the bricks:
EcoFaeBrick, in conjunction with Faerumnesia, produces high quality and low price bricks by utilizing the abundant cow dung in Godean and Sayegan, Jogjakarta. The utilization of the cow dung will not only solve the hygiene problem but also reduce the exploitation of the un-renewable clay. The replacement of firewood with the cow dung methane biogas in the combustion process brings a lower production cost with a more environmental friendly process. EcoFaeBrick also empowers rural people through close partnership with local communities.

Using business model which involves the housing developers, NGOs, and local communities, EcoFaeBrick builds a sustainable market demand to ensure an interesting financial return to the investors. The EcoFaeBrick’s expansion plan focuses on areas with rapid development and high concentration of cattle farm. EcoFaeBrick offers a feasible solution for rapidly developing areas not only in Indonesia but also in other emerging countries.

The students also recommend using fires fueled by cow dung as opposed to firewood. Firewood is incredibly scarce and is also reasonably unrenewable in this area of the world. However, cow dung is a cheap, environmentally-friendly, plentiful source of fuel. It is estimated that by using cow dung instead of firewood 1,692 tons of CO2 are saved. Another huge plus for replacing clay bricks with the EcoFaeBrick is the prevention of the massive damage to the land that comes with clay excavation as pictured above.

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