Carbon Neutral Bio-Block™ Installation Revealed For Chicago Architecture Biennial

26 September 2023

This article originally appeared in Chicago YIMBY

By: Jack Crawford

For this year’s Chicago Architecture Biennial, architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) introduced a concrete substitute made from algae, known as Bio-Blocks™.

Integrated into a spiral wall for the demonstration, this material was developed in partnership with Prometheus Materials and offers a carbon-neutral construction alternative. The installation is located at The Mews in the Fulton Market District and is hosted by Shapack Partners, Focus, and Walton Street Capital. Biennial visitors can walk around the wall and observe its response to environmental factors like wind and moisture.

The Bio-Block is produced using microalgae, which naturally sequester carbon dioxide and undergo a photosynthetic biocementation process that is patent-pending. If deployed at scale and used ubiquitously as a construction substitute, this alternative has the potential to reduce global CO2 emissions by up to 8%. The material is in the evaluation stage but is available for specific projects as a direct substitute for the carbon-intensive Concrete Masonry Units (CMUs) used in modern construction.

The Bio-Block Spiral was constructed using traditional masonry methods by union labor from organizations including the International Masonry Institute (IMI). For the spiral wall alone, the use of Bio-Blocks over standard concrete results in a carbon emissions reduction of one metric ton.

Structural adjustments, such as pleated ends, were made to the spiral wall to enhance its structural support. A documentary film is being played next to the installation to provide an overview of the manufacturing process and construction methods around the Bio-Blocks.

The Bio-Block Spiral received support from partners including 167 Green, Clayco, the International Masonry Institute, J&E Duff, Sherwin Williams, Cushing Co., and Spec Mix. The installation is open to the public daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Read the original article from Chicago YIMBY.

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