Would you live in a house made of urine and bacteria?

Peter Trimble found his formula through trial and error. A design student at the University of Edinburgh, he was aiming to produce an artistic exhibition for a module on sustainability, when he stumbled on “Dupe,” a living alternative to concrete.

A lab technician introduced Trimble to Sporosarcina pasteurii, a bacterium with binding qualities, sometimes used to solidify soil to hold road signs in place. The student tested it with one of the world’s most abundant resources – sand. Pumping bacterial solution into a sand-filled mould, he added nutrients, urea as fertilizer and calcium. After a year, and hundreds of failed experiments, this process manufactured a stool around 70% the compression strength of concrete.

The process requires less than one-sixth of the energy used in concrete production, and is completely biodegradable. Crucially, Trimble believes his mechanism has the added benefit that it could be employed by anyone, anywhere.

“Once you have the basic framework it should be transferable. Imagine a Tsunami-hit farm in Indonesia that is not getting supplies. You could use sand and bacteria on site, practically free, and have shelter housing that is far more permanent.”