Global design firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) partnered with Prometheus Materials, a leader in zero-carbon building materials, to design and produce microalgae-based bricks and bio-concrete. Replacing traditional carbon-heavy concrete materials – currently responsible for 8% of the world’s total Carbon Dioxide emissions – with a zero-carbon bio-concrete could rapidly accelerate the transformation of building construction into a carbon-free industry. As the need to decarbonize buildings becomes more urgent, the materials offer a promising, immediate, zero-carbon alternative to traditional, concrete-based building materials.
“The future of the built environment is carbon-negative and, through this new collaboration, buildings have the potential to become part of the solution to climate change, not the problem. If we replaced every concrete block with a bio-based alternative in our building projects, the impact would be immense. We recognize the urgent need for new materials that address this challenge. Through our collaboration with Prometheus Materials, SOM is able to play a direct role in creating the materials that will be the foundation of our carbon-negative future, bringing our vision for a healthy planet closer to reality,” said Brant Coletta, SOM Managing Partner.
The material is created using naturally occurring microalgae – a microscopic algae that naturally sequesters carbon – and a patent-pending photosynthetic biocementation process. Microalgae is combined with water, sunlight, and CO2 to create a material which is chemically similar to the calcium carbonate biodynamically generated in coral reefs and oyster shells. When mixed with aggregate, this bio-cement creates a net zero-carbon building material with mechanical, physical, and thermal performance properties comparable or superior to portland cement-based concrete.
“The architects, designers, engineers, and planners at SOM are at the forefront of developing and using new sustainable materials, technologies, policies, and ways of thinking to minimize the construction’s industry’s climate impact,” said Loren Burnett, Prometheus Materials President, CEO, and Co-Founder. “We’re marrying our highly specialized knowledge in decarbonized building materials with SOM’s deep bench of expertise in designing innovative, sustainable buildings around the globe.”
The cross-industry partnership is an extension of Urban Sequoia, a design concept SOM unveiled at the United Nations COP26 Climate Conference, which envisions “forests” of buildings that sequester carbon and produce biomaterials to create a new carbon economy and a resilient urban environment.
Prometheus Materials was co-founded by a team of scientists and engineers from the University of Colorado Boulder. As part of the collaboration, SOM recently joined an $8 million Series A financing round for Prometheus Materials.
About Prometheus Materials
Prometheus Materials delivers sustainable building materials that accelerate the world’s transition to a carbon-negative future. Inspired by biological processes found in nature, the company has developed a technology that uses naturally occurring microalgae to produce a bio-cement that offers a strong and durable alternative to carbon-intensive portland cement. When mixed with aggregate, this bio-cement creates a zero-carbon building material with the mechanical, physical, and thermal properties comparable or, in some cases, superior to portland cement-based concrete.
About Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is a global collective of architects, designers, engineers, and planners, responsible for some of the world’s most technically and environmentally advanced buildings and significant public spaces. From a strategic regional plan to a single piece of furniture, SOM’s designs anticipate change in the way we live, work and communicate, and have brought lasting value to communities around the world. The firm’s approach is highly collaborative, and its interdisciplinary team is engaged on a wide range of international projects, with creative studios based across the globe.