A company called Kite Bricks is out to disrupt the construction business starting with the humble brick.
Kite Bricks has developed “Smart Bricks” (S-Bricks) made out of high-strength concrete that can be used to make buildings rapidly and cheaply, in an energy-efficient way.
The bricks—which are patent pending—are much like Lego in that they come in a variety of forms for different purposes and can easily connect together, with rows of knobs along the top of bricks that slot into voids along the bottom of other bricks. A special adhesive—which works like a super-strong double-sided sticky tape, a bit like 3M VHB—dispenses with the need for cement. They can be delivered to building sites in a kit complete with traditional doors and windows, allowing for structures to be assembled with a minimum of debris and labor. Steel bars can be slotted through dedicated channels in the bricks to provide the same support as traditionally reinforced concrete.
The bricks feature open internal spaces for insulation, which means that buildings made with the bricks require less energy for heating and cooling. The spaces also allow for infrastructure elements—whether it’s plumbing or wiring—to run through them. Removable panels allow for easy access to these infrastructure elements so that portions of walls don’t need to be torn down for maintenance. The bricks can be used to make floors, walls, and ceilings and the company says that if it constructs the average five story building using the bricks it can save around 30 percent energy compared with traditional construction methods. Kite Bricks also claims to be able to reduce the cost of construction by as much as 50 percent.
Kite Bricks was set up by Ronnie Zohar, who has another company that applies layers of film over windows in order to improve insulation. “I realized that windows in the building are a small part of the heat problem—most of the problem is the concrete with the steel inside that get hot or cold,” Zohar told Wired.co.uk. This led him to develop a brick with gaps for air inside for insulation purposes, before he started to consider other features. It’s been in development for three years, with one of the most tricky elements being developing a formulation of concrete that’s “light and strong like steel.”
What does he think of the Lego comparison? “It didn’t come from there,” he says, adding that the focus was always on insulation and strength. The fact that the blocks have been designed to connect together easily was secondary.
One of Zohar’s key focuses has been to make it as simple as possible to build using the bricks. “I’d like people in Africa and other places in the world to be able to build with our brick and get a thermally-insulated house using the same money they would have spent on tin.”
So far, there’s only a prototype and IP protection. Zohar needs further funding—around $3 million—in order to bring the Smart Brick to market. Future plans could include the introduction of robotic builders (as shown in the video) that could assemble properties using the bricks.
See a gallery of these Smart Bricks on Wired.co.uk.