Envitrum’s Glass Bricks

This entry was posted by on Sunday, 13 June, 2010 at

Blue Glass VaseMany people are familiar with dropping off glass bottles in the recycling bin. Depositors get a redemption value that varies by state, the glass bottles go to the waste processing plant, and it may seem like that’s the end of it. Unfortunately, many of the glass bottles can’t be used in current recycling methods and end up getting dumped in landfills. Washington students are now using the recycled glass to create glass bricks, which have advantages over traditional masonry. The University of Washington’s Foster Business School awarded two engineering grad students, Grant Marchelli and Renuka Prabhakar, a $10,000 prize for coming up with this idea.

Traditional methods of recycling glass do not allow all of the glass to be reused. Glass containers often require all of the glass to be the same color. According to Envitrum, green, brown, and other colored glass is often considered a contaminant at waste plants. In addition, glass may be combined with other materials to create packaging, which can also create glass that can’t be recycled.

Glass bricks created according to Envitrum’s process have advantages over masonry bricks. According to Envitrum, the glass bricks are slightly stronger than masonry bricks, around ten percent. The main benefit of the glass bricks is their cost advantage. A builder who uses the Envitrum bricks may save twenty five percent of the bricks’ cost. According to Xconomy, the price savings might be even higher; A quote from cofounder Prabhakar claims a cost of 10 to 15 cents rather than 20 to 25 for red bricks, so the twenty five percent cost reduction on Envitrum’s web site may be a conservative estimate. It may be possible to obtain further cost savings since not as many bricks are necessary for construction when stronger bricks are used.

Envitrum’s production methods create other energy reduction benefits compared to using recycled glass to create containers. The site claims that it is not necessary to melt the glass to use it in bricks, so this saves all of the electricity normally required to rework glass into new containers. Since sorting through different types of glass is not necessary, it’s also not necessary to power machines to sort through the glass efficiently. According to University of Washington News, these process improvements reduce the energy cost of brick manufacturing by as much as sixty percent.

These glass bricks have a characteristic that allows new green design concepts. The glass bricks are water permeable, unlike red masonry bricks. Water flow can be incorporated into building design to easily heat or cool the structure, reducing its energy costs. Permeability can also be useful when creating a living wall or a green roof, since the roots of a plant can draw water from the bricks.

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