German start-up pioneers greener alternative to concrete
Ryan Thompson in Frankfurt


Despite looking like a giant set of children's Lego, this construction site outside Frankfurt is no playground. It's an experimental home built with new materials that could revolutionize construction in the face of growing demand for building supplies. 

The concrete blocks at its base are made by German start-up Polycare, which says its Polyblocks provide a greener alternative to traditional building materials.

The bricks are made from polymer concrete, which consists of 90 percent filler from naturally occurring sands and 10 percent binder. In places where traditional methods of making concrete are difficult, Polycare's blocks take advantage of local raw materials such as desert sand or other free-flowing filler.

"Our founders thought about how we could radically change the construction process and enable people to build homes themselves with local products," said Polycare COO Andreas Kunsmann. 

Climate scientists say polycare blocks could usher in a new era of sustainable construction, especially in regions where water supplies are scarce. 

The production of regular concrete requires hundreds of liters of groundwater, which can strain drinking and irrigation supplies. The whole process has been noted as a major contributor to greenhouse gases. 

"We need extremely few materials for one building block," Kunsmann said. 

A post-pandemic boom in building has sent the price of building materials soaring worldwide. Lumber, steel and concrete prices are trading at higher prices compared to at the start of the pandemic.

The company believes developing economies, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, would benefit from these specially engineered blocks. 

Around 100 homes have been constructed in Namibia using the Polyblocks.

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