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Could animal blood be the next eco-friendly building material?

By

October 24, 2012

The 'Blood Bricks' created by British architecture school graduate Jack Munro

The 'Blood Bricks' created by British architecture school graduate Jack Munro

How could cattle become any more useful? Their hide is already used to produce leather, their milk is used for cheese butter and, well, milk, they taste great in a burger and continue to serve as draft animals in many parts of the world. British architecture school graduate Jack Munro has found a way to make a building material using one of the few materials from cattle that currently largely goes to waste – blood.

Munro’s “Blood Bricks” are created by first mixing fresh blood with an anticoagulant (EDTA) to prevent it thickening too quickly. Although he used bullocks, blood from other animals could also be used. He then adds sodium azide as a preservative to prevent decomposition and bacteria growth. After a number of unsuccessful attempts at creating a glue by adding chemicals such as glacial acetic acid, Munro turned to the simpler combination of blood and water that is then mixed with sand.

Placing the resulting mixture in formwork and baking it for an hour at 70° C (158° F) for an hour causes the blood proteins to coagulate to produce a stable, waterproof brick. With Munro estimating that 30 liters (7.9 gal US) of blood could be recovered from a single bullock and sand plentiful, he believes Blood Bricks have the potential to replace mud bricks as a building material in arid regions.

To this end, he is looking to raise enough money to build a prototype home using Blood Bricks in Siwa, Egypt. If he's successful, we might start seeing a lot of "red brick" homes being built in similar areas.

Source: JSMunro via Co.Design

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
18 Comments

Certainly clever, but I can't see this catching on.

There's just too much of the "icky factor" in it.

The trend seems to be towards using *fewer* animal products, not more.

mooseman
25th October, 2012 @ 12:05 am PDT

For many years it was common to use animal derived additives in lime based renders. Blood, hair and manure were all used and still are when working on historic buildings.

In this case the blood seems to being used as a bonding agent whereas in traditional construction it was used to improve the workability of the render.

Just goes to show there is nothing new under the sun.

Barry Hopwood
25th October, 2012 @ 03:41 am PDT

mooseman, "icky factor"? THINK about that. When an animal is butchered, blood is a generally considered a 'byproduct' and discarded/wasted. This process takes a byproduct and converts into a sanitary, useful, stable and durable product.

Facebook User
25th October, 2012 @ 04:55 am PDT

Most interesting idea, too bad that making food out of the blood is much better use of it.

Toffe Kaal
25th October, 2012 @ 05:54 am PDT

The Vegies and Vegans have left the building.....never to return.

Mike Hallett
25th October, 2012 @ 07:04 am PDT

The blood from butchered animals is not currently being wasted. It is used to make various animal feeds and fertilizer products.

Tim Lewallen
25th October, 2012 @ 08:07 am PDT

at least in industrialized countries, they use blood for fertilizer, animal food, etc

ew

but still

and in some far off primitive country, will they have molds, ovens, the other chemicals.?

ew again

wle

wle
25th October, 2012 @ 09:13 am PDT

This is wrong on so many levels-chief among them would be the subsidizing the meat industry-a very unsustainable food using 100 times the land and contributing to 25% of the greenhouse gasses.

I'm with Mike Hallett, the Veggies and Vegans have vacated the building...never to be seen again.

ADVENTUREMUFFIN
25th October, 2012 @ 10:04 am PDT

While there is an ick factor, what is interesting is this person has looked at an unconventional material and investigated it's properties in ways never thought of. What else is out there? I'm still jazzed about hempcrete and wish there was some way to cut thru the cr*p about hemp to get it on the market in the US in a big way.

Ruth Knapp Vallejos
25th October, 2012 @ 12:28 pm PDT

The heat causes the protein to coagulate but why wouldn't it rot over time?

Interesting idea though.

If you look at the amount of crop you would need to replace animals in our diet (and if you don't calculate animal feed as if every bit of it comes from dedicated cropland--much of it comes from human crop waste and processing byproducts), meat actually takes up less land than the equivalent in vegetative calories and nutrients.

Blood used in animal feed will probably become less popular and less legal with mad cow disease and new potential diseases.

The Hajj probably results in a lot of spare blood. Muslims are not supposed to consume it but they don't seem to have any shortage of sand. With some desalination they might get into the brick production and export business.

Snake Oil Baron
25th October, 2012 @ 12:45 pm PDT

If those bricks aren't fired properly I can only imagine the sight of a house melting into a pile of bloody sand in a rain storm or flood

Forward Thinker
25th October, 2012 @ 12:45 pm PDT

As for ick factor, many parts of the world make brick using dung. Blood bricks should find use somewhere. BTW, even the best blood transfusion systems will have some amount of product that missed the use-by date or had the testing segments used up or damaged so it couldn't be used safely. How about a human house? Or have blood cultivated from your own skin (as they can now do) so you could have a home made out of your own blood. It would take a while but it would cool if you made a big Frankenstein like castle & circulated rumours about unnatural experiments. Your descendants could charge fees to paranormal investigators.

Snake Oil Baron
25th October, 2012 @ 01:07 pm PDT

All those people saying ick, must realize that many day to day items we consume do start from ick ingredients or processes. Vegans aren't the most High moral people as they too eat plants which are living things.

If they do not degrade over time then this is a wonderful idea.

Dawar Saify
25th October, 2012 @ 06:38 pm PDT

This claim of eating meat being 'unsustainable' is wrong on every count.

#1 It does not use up "100" times the land.

#2 The other planets are heating up at the same rate the earth is so this concern about greenhouse gasses is a false alarm.

Besides those who worry about such things ant more land for nature anyway and the animals that would live on that land will produce their own greenhouse gasses as will the plants when they decay or catch fire from lightening strikes.

#3 If humans eat the plants directly instead of the cattle they eat they will have to use just as much acreage as the same amount of meat they eat.

So their is nothing gained from not having the animal eat it and then eating the animal.

#4 The animals themselves often eat from land that is not suitable for farming anyway so again it is not 'lost' by having the animals eat from it.

Fusiontek
25th October, 2012 @ 06:57 pm PDT

I put a mix called "blood and bone" on my vege garden every spring and autumn. It is made from cow blood and bone (for the most part). Cow blood is also used in sausages, sauces and drinks in various parts of the world. Blood and bone is also ground up and used in fish food for fish farms and mixed with meal to be fed back to cows and pigs. Cow blood is not a waste product in most places. I would say there is almost no waste from a cow. Even their farts are collected and used in some dairy farms to power the milking equipment.

Nice idea to find a novel use for an existing product though. But considering the effort you have to go to for the blood to work, why not just use water and lime in mud bricks?

Scion
25th October, 2012 @ 08:17 pm PDT

To those of you making silly arguments about your food:

Let's make a couple of approximations: first, let's say the efficiency for converting carbohydrates, starches, and proteins into energy is about the same for humans as it is for cows (it's close enough). Let's say that conversion rate is about 40% efficient, with most of the extra energy lost to heat. This is also fairly close and pretty good (and the argument stands, as long as efficiency is notably lower than 100% and the losses are primarily non-recoverable). The efficiency for humans to get energy straight from plants is clearly better than the efficiency of feeding human food to cattle then eating cattle, even if you recover every drop of processing. The only way this could be otherwise were if (a) cows were getting energy from products humans could not use for energy otherwise (this used to be the case, but we make proportionally minute use of grass fed cattle and have more efficient ways of harvesting energy from these sources anyway) or (b) the process of harvesting vegetables for human consumption was so much more inefficient than harvesting for cattle consumption (again, the fact that a majority of cattle feed is preprocessed disputes this).

This isn't just my armchair analysis. A few minutes on Google Scholar will net you dozens of papers and research studies supporting these calculations. Add to this the cost to healthcare (the CDC cites cattle as a major cause of antibacterial resistance in infectious disease) and the practices that make cattle companies about as pleasant a neighbours as failing oil refineries, and there are a LOT of reasons to reduce your meat and animal product consumption - if not to zero, then at least to historic levels of less than 20% of average diet, and for our governments to take a collective second look at practices that capitulate with and finance for the wanton waste of this industry.

Charles Bosse
26th October, 2012 @ 09:59 am PDT

Only profitable with nano plasma replication of cells or any bio cellular materials!

Anton Christopher McInerney
26th October, 2012 @ 02:46 pm PDT

Pretty dumb "invention"

How can it be eco-friendly when livestock gas emissions cause 18% of all greenhouse gasses ?

while all transportation vehicles in the world cause 15% ?

You need to revise your logic.

Facebook User
7th November, 2012 @ 02:51 pm PST
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