The development aims to create a substitute to concrete, which is a major carbon emissions culprit, while simultaneously giving new economic and ecological value to invasive species
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Spotted: Graduates Brigitte Kock and Irene Roca Moracia, from Central Saint Martins College of Art in London, have created concrete-like tiles made from Japanese knotweed and shells from American signal crayfish.
The project was commissioned as part of the Maison/0 graduate programme by the LVMH group, which includes Dior and Louis Vuitton among its brands, with the aim of developing a sustainable alternative to current building materials that could be used in luxury store interiors.
Crayfish are among the top five non-native species that are causing the most ecological and economic damage in the UK. By adding value to them, Kock and Moracia hope to incentivise their removal and help to restore local biodiversity.
The knotweed, which is incinerated after removal, acts as the ash binder, while pulverised crayfish shells are used as the aggregate instead of the traditional rocks or sand, as these can contain fossilised carbon. Combined with water and gelatine, these ingredients create a strong, homogenous material that cures and hardens without the need for added heat or synthetic colouring.
Kock and Moracia were able to source both species from specialist removal companies, before combining them using a recipe based on the volcanic ash concrete developed by the ancient Romans.
The material for the tiles, which the researchers refer to as bio-concrete, can take on a range of different finishes to replicate raw concrete or the delicate veining of stone or marble. Its colours vary from a pale, minty green, created by firing the crayfish shell, to a deep burgundy colour that develops in the curing process when pieces of raw knotweed root are included alongside the ash.
At the moment, the project is still in the beginning stages and Moracia estimates it will take a few more years to create a standardised product. Moreover, building regulations and rules around the disposal of invasive species would need to be changed to allow for commercial use.
Written By: Katrina Lane