Mexican entrepreneur Omar Sánchez Vázquez has devised a way to transform an invasive species of brown algae, known as sargassum, into building bricks. The brown algae, which traps turtles and fills the air with the smell of rotten eggs, is a threat to both the marine ecosystem and tourism.
The organic, thermal and functional construction material utilises the same technique used to make adobe bricks, although it costs 50% percent less than adobe bricks. The building bricks are also said to be resistant to hurricanes.
Omar Sánchez Vázquez first saw an opportunity in the brown sargassum seaweed to grow his gardening business in 2015, when he spotted that the sea began to dump vast amounts of the algae on beaches of the southeastern Mexican state of Quintana Roo.
Initially he used sargassum as fertiliser at his BlueGreen Nursery and sold small amounts to his customers. Yet at the same time the BlueGreen founder wanted a little adobe house, one that he would build with his own hands, and so took out all the permits needed to patent the first block of sargassum.
In 2018, Omar Sánchez Vázquez erected his first house in just 15 days using 2,000 bricks produced with 20 metric tons of sargassum. The rustic house, which is named “Angelita” in honour of Omar Sánchez Vázquez’s mother, is an exact replica of the house in which he grew up in Guadalajara in western Mexico.
Omar Sánchez Vázquez’s construction team is currently working on two building projects using sargassum. The first is a build of 10 residential homes which will be donated to poor familes, and the second, is a private project in Tulum, also on the Mexican Caribbean, where they are building 40 residential homes.
It is understood that the sargassum bricks could soon be used to build a new eco-hotel in Tulum.
Since the seaweed crisis began in the Mexican Caribbean, numerous projects have been launched to take advantage of the algae, from disposable dishes and cups and shoe soles to its use as a fine-foods ingredient and in exotic drinks.
It wasn’t long before people interested in replicating the sargassum-house model were getting in touch with Omar Vazquez, people from
Countries including Belize, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, Malaysia and the United States have also been affected by sargassum, which has hit their shores with vast amounts of seaweed daily.
Images Credit: BlueGreen
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyles including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com