"The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't." - Douglas Adams
I don't often think about bricks, but when I do I certainly don't associate them with high performance. But that my friends, is changing. Bricks can interact with the environment, help us achieve our goals, and keep us entertained. Let's take a look at some of the more fascinating high performance bricks that are evolving today.
Developed at Harvard's Graduate School of Design as a student project, Cold Spot in 2015 won the MIT Climate Co-Lab competition for combating urban heat island effect. This high-tech brick concept use shape to draw in air, cool it, and provide a more comfortable environment. The elegant design is modular, and allows the bricks to be located in parks, squares, and other pedestrian areas year round, or only in times when a little cooling is needed.
Bloque Termodisipador BT
Colombian architects Miguel Niño and Johanna Navarro from Sumart Diseño y Arquitectura SAS created a brick design that does away with the old flat face, and introduces us to an irregular shape that increases airflow, insulation, self shading, and even improves the acoustic performance of walls. Talk about smart. This simple basic material, with a little added shape, transforms itself into a multi-functional super brick.
The LIAR Project's Smart Brick
Verging on the edge of 'Why would I ever want this?' territory is the LIAR Project's Smart Brick concept. The idea is to have each brick be it's own living bioreactor, including the ability to gain energy from the sun, capture nutrients, and produce products. These smart bricks will give our urban environments their own 'digestive system', because why not? Hmm, I wonder if they will smell...or burp.
The bioMASON bricks are no small innovation in bricks. Forty percent of all CO2 emissions are due to the construction industry. To combat this, these bricks are grown with the help of friendly bacteria rather than fired. That means there is no intensive use of energy to harden these bricks, instead the bacteria do the job of hardening the material together . This means very little to no CO2 is created in the process. If I were to build the world, bioMASON bricks would be on my rolodex (wait do we still use those things?).
Another Colombian team Oscar Mendez, Henry Cañon, and Isabel Cristina wanted to reduce the impact of plastic trash. Their solution was to turn plastic waste into bricks, creating Conceptos Plásticos a company whose plastic Lego-like bricks can be quickly and easily assembled. The group helps people learn how to create the building themselves, much like sets of Lego's or IKEA- if you build it yourself, you love it a little bit more.
Probably the brick I'm most excited about is FLEXO. The idea to create flexible linkages between 'building blocks' is so overdue it's ridiculous. The inventor was inspired by the ligament structures of bodies, and indeed the addition of elastic materials between blocks opens up whole new doors for creative exploration and play.
If you want your 'building blocks' to come to life, BRIXO has your answer. These blocks offer up a series of sensors, battery blocks, and action blocks that let you build responsive structures, robots, and toys. Bricks are starting to look a lot more interactive than they used to, and BRIXO looks like the future of electronic play.