British architect Jack Munro is experimenting making bricks from a frequently discarded resource — animal blood.
The 2012 graduate of University of Westminster in London spent his final semester conducting a study on using the blood from slaughtered animals in construction. Despite the ick (or is that ichor?) factor, Munro proposes that blood-and-sand bricks could be feasible in dry, underdeveloped areas where conventional building materials are hard to find.
“Animal blood is one of the most prolific waste materials in the world,” Munro stated on his website. “The blood drained from animal carcasses is generally thrown away or incinerated despite being a potentially useful product.”
For his early tests, the recent architecture grad collected blood from four cows; one cow contains about eight gallons of blood after slaughter.
The gory process involves mixing fresh blood with sand and a preservative to prevent bacterial growth in the material. Munro then placed the combination in a form work and baked it for one hour at 70 degrees Celsius (about 160 degrees Fahrenheit), which coagulated the blood proteins into a solid, insoluble mass that bonded with the sand. The resulting bricks are not super-strong, but they are water-proof; this means they could replace mud bricks in regions where erosion from rain is common, such as Siwa, Egypt, where Munro hopes to erect a prototype single-story home.
The architect has a vision for a brick-building community in Siwa, which could also give residents another way to earn money. The blood would be extracted from animals killed in a halal manner, in accordance with local customs.
“I believe there is certainly a potential for the real-world application of the techniques developed in the project,” Munro told Fast Company via e-mail. The building he proposed in his thesis includes the entire production process, from cattle sheds to abattoir to brick-making facilities. “The building itself is formed by casting animal-blood-based adhesive over a sand dune and allowing the dune to migrate,” he stated on his site, “revealing an interior space that can be excavated and occupied.”
A literal house of blood? Sounds spooky at first blush, but the underlying concept of sustainability and local empowerment is nothing short of heart-warming.
Here’s a closer look at Munro’s blood bricks, as well as his concept design of a building made from pouring a blood mixture over sand dunes: