Here at The Optimist Daily, we’re always keen on celebrating the advent of circularity into different sectors of the economy. With that said, we would like to share with you a recent innovative circular solution that uses animal waste to help make the construction industry more sustainable.
That’s right, designers at Bangkok Project Studio have figured out a way to upcycle elephant dung into durable bricks, all while benefitting local communities. The project took place in the Kiu Village of Ban Ta Klang, Thailand, a region where domesticated elephants are a common occurrence.
The first initiative to explore elephant dung as a construction material
The initiative “is the first step in promoting the use of elephant dung […] through research and development,” says Boonserm Premthada, the lead architect behind the project. “With potentials in art and architecture, this experimental material can be developed into an actual functioning structure — proving how natural resources can be upcycled in a way […] that maximizes the benefits of the natural resource,” Premthada tells designboom.
The design studio partnered with ‘mahouts’ (elephant riders) and local workers to create sustainable building materials. The first step in the brick-making process involves the collection of unwanted dry dung and transporting it to a dedicated workshop where workers mix the waste with cement and water.
The mix is then injected and smoothed into molding trays using wooden sticks. To ensure that the mixture remains intact, the workers water the bricks for seven days straight, after which the stack is left to dry for three weeks before it becomes ready for use.
What makes elephant dung a good construction material?
According to Premthada, elephants consume 200-300 kg of plant-based food per day, which means that their dung is rich in fiber, making it a great ingredient for creating bricks. As reported by designboom, the plan is now to expand the sustainable, low-cost, process of turning elephant dung into bricks to other parts of the world. The project was awarded designboom’s THE DESIGN PRIZE 2021 for social impact.