Making bricks is a lot of work, uses a lot of energy, and produces over 800 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. Furthermore, Ginger Dozier calculated that 400 trees are destroyed for every 25,000 bricks produced. That’s why the researcher, who worked as a teaching fellow at the College of Design from 2005 to 2007, decided to try a different approach to brick-making: She had bacteria make them for her. The bugs’ raw materials are sand, calcium chloride, and urea. The resulting bricks aren’t much larger than Legos, but the promise is huge. It prompted Metropolis magazine to award Dozier with first prize this year in its annual Next Generation competition.
Dozier credits the College of Design for helping to make her award possible. “The College embraced and supported this research topic by allowing me to teach graduate seminar courses that integrated research with discussion; and by generously allotting a space for the many microscopes and other equipment once foreign in a design school,” said Dozier, who is currently an assistant architecture professor at the American University of Sharjah in United Arab Emirates. Dozier was mentored in her research by Associate Professor Patrick Rand, who encouraged Dozier to focus on bricks rather than less complicated structures. Dozier also worked closely with José Bruno-Bárcena, an assistant professor in NC State’s microbiology department.
Challenges remain in upscaling her process to create bricks faster (it can take a week to grow a bacteria brick) and to ameliorate the massive amounts of ammonia produced by the process. But few people are as focused as Dozier, who gave away all her possessions before graduate school and is thinking of field-testing her process in the desert with Bedouins.