This design proposal explores a new method of additive manufacturing as an alternative to concrete construction. It introduces a new building material that is composed entirely of renewable resources that are readily and abundantly available. Entitled Electrorock, it uses electricity to bind dissolved calcium minerals in seawater to a predetermined metal matrix. This system has been modified from previous research to develop new architectural building panels such as columns, beams, and purpose built panel systems. Rather than being fabricated, Electrorock products are grown through a synthetic biomineralization process. The technology was derived from hermatypic calcareous organism that extract carbonates from surrounding seawater to build up their own exoskeletons, shells, spicules or other elements of their bodies. They achieve this by using metabolic energy to create an internal chemical condition that overcomes nucleation barriers. In chemistry this reaction is referred to as electrodeposition of minerals. Electrorock is able to mimic this metabolic process by applying an electrical current between two electrodes submerged in seawater to precipitate targeted ions. This method allows us to accrete solid calcium carbonate, similar to limestone, onto any metal framework, giving us the freedom to grow an array of products to any desired geometry.
So far this methodology has only been applied to the restoration and protection of coral reefs in attempts to counteract global warming, sedimentation, and pollution. However, Hilbertz and Goreau mention in their research that this technology can be utilized in a number of ways such as protecting shorelines from erosion and global sea level rises by growing structural barriers along the coast. This proposal, explores the potential of MAT within the field of architecture and attempt to remodel current construction methods to one that is less harmful and more cost-efficient. Electrorock will achieve this by reducing the need for deforestation, mining, excavating, industrial plants, transportation, and total waste.
If we continue depleting our natural resources at this rate we will soon outpace the sustainable capacity of our ecosystems and find ourselves with contaminated non-biologically productive landscapes. In order to counteract this overconsumption we must solve for new innovative building materials and technologies that are resource-efficient and environmentally responsible. Construction materials today should be governed by ecological consideration to prevent any further damage to our planet.
This research aims to identify and understand current construction issues in order to propose a new solution to building materials and their production. Electrorock will challenge current architectural approaches and provide designers which much more freedom pertaining to the built form. This factory design proposal will be the first closed-loop facility to mass produce Electrorock products. It will provide new standards for future factories to strive for as it will run solely off renewable energy.