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Diploma 18: Opalis UK

Unit Tutors: Aude-Line Duliere, Maarten Gielen, Lionel Devlieger

4th Year Thesis Research 

Project Duration: March - June 2019

Location: UK

Site Visit Documentation

H.G. Matthews Brickyard Tour

Brick Making Process

This year began by collectively developing the Opalis website for Rotor. Opalis is committed to locating reused and reclaimed building materials in the UK. In groups we sought after companies who sell these materials. We interviewed the owners to collect information of where the materials are from, how they are salvaged, and what types of materials they have in stock, with rigorous site documentation. This collection of research was then put into the Opalis database to help the reuse industry move forward and create a positive change in our current building industry.


The second the third term of the year, we were asked to pick a material and design how it would be reused. This begs the question: What materials do we see fit for the future? Should we create a new market that serves a greater purpose for future generations? Cow dung can be used as a stabilizer for brick making as a better alternative to contemporary methods. With this research I questioned how it can change the industry and the environment, specifically targeting the UK.

The extraction of construction minerals, as well as the excess amount of dairy cow manure proves to be harmful and problematic on the environment. These two major issues seem unrelated to one another; what is the connection? It is by using dairy cow manure that has been put through anaerobic digestors, to produce digestate, acts as a strong stabilizer in the production of bricks. This process reduces the amount of clay and soil needed that would otherwise be extracted from the earth. This ultimately helps alleviate the ecological footprint, and expand the lifespan of clay beds, in comparison to the current standard production of bricks.

A series of analytical mappings were produced, specifically targeting the UK, to create a localized strategy of where the clay and soil beds exist, in proximity to the dairy farms that use anaerobic digestion. This research is ongoing to ensure the production of materials remain local to further minimize the carbon footprint.

The site chosen to explore and test this material strategy was at H.G. Matthews Brickworks, where the digestate would be supplied locally from Arla Foods. A brickyard production facility was designed at H.G. Matthews, with thorough advice and guidance from the owner Traff Matthews. Producing bricks made of digestate and clay was successfully done, however, to avoid firing the bricks, further research into developing new products is currently in the works and carried into my 5th year thesis research.

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