Are LEGO-like Smart Bricks the future of home construction?
An Israeli entrepreneur is developing a modular building system with a brainy twist.
Despite the term "LEGO-esque" getting thrown around quite a bit these days in reference to stack-and-connect-centric modular building systems, it’s not every day that you see real building blocks that bear a striking resemblance to the beloved construction toy. The Smart Brick, an innovative and unique building product under development from Israeli startup Kite Bricks, looks a heck of a lot like your average LEGO brick, right down to the interlocking studs (in this instance, square, not round) on top.
Ron Zohar, the man behind the patent-pending building system, tells Wired UK that despite the bricks' LEGO-y looks, the plastic Danish import was not an influence on their design. Strength and thermal performance, not the ability to stack and connect, was the driving force behind their creation.
The makers of Smart Brick aim to shake up conventional building methods by offering a building block, suitable for both modest homes and multi-story office towers, that’s cheaper, more efficient and more versatile than the stick-built competition. As with other modular building methods, a dramatic drop in construction waste is a notable benefit of Smart Bricks.
While concrete Smart Bricks stack together much like LEGO blocks, they're also bound together with a special adhesive and reinforced with steel. (Video screenshot: Kite Bricks/YouTube)
Their outer appearance may be attention-grabbing/nostalgia-inducing, but it’s inside the Smart Brick where things get really interesting and depart from other modular building systems. Made from a strong-as-steel yet lightweight concrete developed in Germany, each brick contains a side panel that can be unlocked with a special tool to reveal its interior, home to insulation and infrastructure elements such as electric wiring, cables, pipes, plumbing, HVAC equipment and the like. In the event that an element, a faulty wire, for example, is in need of routine maintenance or requires immediate attention, there’s no need to knock down a wall, rip up the floor or cause a big – and expensive – mess: a Smart Brick building’s “brains” are easily accessible.
The made-to-order bricks are precision-constructed at a factory before being delivered, as a kit, to an install site where they're stacked together using a special adhesive that renders the need for cement and other traditional construction binders obsolete. Reinforcement is provided via steel bars that are slotted through the individual bricks as they are stacked. Two construction site staples, scaffolding and cranes, are not required during the build process.
In addition to a speedy, low-waste install building process, energy efficiency is one of the biggest benefits of the Smart Brick, as its thermal properties reflect heat during the summer months and trap it, allowing for cozier interior living spaces - minus the sky-high heating bills - during the winter.
Zohar’s company anticipates that a structure composed of these built-to-last building blocks will offer a 50 percent reduction in construction costs compared to traditional building methods. Along with a streamlined building process and less reliance on other building materials, these savings come in part from the fact that, as evidenced in the video above, industrious block-stacking robots, instead of humans, will apparently bear a brunt of the work.
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