3D-printed plastic waste brick offers 10 times better insulation

26 November 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

The new brick (top) compared to a traditional brick (Image: De Montfort University)

A new brick 3D printed from domestic waste offers 10 times better insulation than traditional clay bricks, according to its inventors.

Dr Karthikeyan Kandan, senior lecturer in mechanical engineering at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), has created the novel brick made entirely from upcycled plastic waste.

The brick is 3D printed with criss-crossing strips of the plastic materials to form a grid, or weave, which has been inspired by the nest of the Baya weaverbird, which is found on the Indian subcontinent. The nest is renowned for its elaborately woven construction.

PhD student Saad Alqahtani and Dr Karthikeyan Kandan

Kandan said: “The baya weaverbird’s nest’s ingenious construction gives it excellent thermal insulation and mechanical properties for inhabitation.

“Inside there is a central nesting chamber, which makes it the ideal micro-climate for inhabitation. By replicating this structure, we have manufactured a brick that improves energy efficiency of modern buildings and therefore can reduce carbon footprint.”

Thermal insulation tests showed that the brick has a U-value of 0.25 Watts per metre Kelvin (W/m²K). This is 10 times more effective than a clay brick, which delivers an average of 2.94 W/m²K. U-value is a measure of the flow of heat through an insulating or building material: the lower the U-value, the better the insulating ability.

Kandan said: “Our brick, made from all kinds of domestic plastic waste – from coffee cup lids to plastic bottles – exhibits a tremendous thermal envelope over conventional building materials.

“This provides significant potential to not only improve the energy efficiency of modern building, but also to conserve space and reduce dead-weight in multi-story buildings.”


This is a great idea for reusing plastics. I would be interested in an article exploring how this material performs against a traditional masonry brick in terms fire resistance, particularly if it is used in combination with cavity wall insulation.
None the less, this is good idea that deserves merit.

Julian Egan, 26 November 2019

Fantastic ... lets all replace non flammable / combustible clay bricks with plastic bricks made with petroleum based products that WILL BURN. What other lessons are needed?

Paul, 26 November 2019

Interesting but what is its fire rating, how will it be bonded and how will it be tied back to the other frame work, kit or inner leaf also how is it for strength.

James McCubbin, 26 November 2019

Great idea to recycle a difficult waste product.

Couple of questions.

What is the door to door energy & production cost to produce a single brick compared with a conventional clay brick?
As it's basically plastic what are its fire rating properties?

Many thanks.

M Davies, 26 November 2019

Load-bearing performance?
Fire safety?
Costs? I see elsewhere "Traditionally, a range of building blocks are required to achieve the regulatory standard U-value, however, the newly designed plastic brick can achieve this on its own." saving can be made in overall construction??????
Iain Meek DipArch RIAS RIBA FBIS
[email protected]
07960 173903

Iain Meek, 26 November 2019

Would be good to know the compressive strength is comparable with clay, and that the bricks are frost and UV stable in exposed applications. Follow up please CM.

Adam Dowling, 26 November 2019

Great concept however, what are the structural properties of it like and how are bricks stuck together. How does it respond to fire or heat?

Sam, 26 November 2019

Great idea, but do we want our buildings built of plastic & is it flammable?

Richard Moore. MCIOB, 26 November 2019

Really good idea to use plastic waste, but ...

How much cost reduction needs to take place for the new brick to be an economic alternative?


Roger Browne, 26 November 2019

What a great invention!
I was aware birds (and spiders) built incredibly robust and efficient structures thanks to Michael Pawlyn's book Biomimicry in Architecture (that I've helped translate into French) but did not know they also built energy efficient ones.
I do hope this new construction material will be marketed soon for the good of our planet!

Elizabeth Lefer, 26 November 2019

How is the fire rating and or fire protection for this sort of product?

Hugh, 26 November 2019

Great idea, but how well do they burn, how much do they cost, how strong are they, and what do buildig regs have to say about it ?

Cheers, J/.

John Beardmore, 26 November 2019

Amazing, I'm a builder, and conservation minded, when can this product be commercially viable for use? Would mortar be used to lay the bricks, what compounds bond to the bricks, ie render or plasterboard bonding compound. Can these bricks only be created by additive manufacturing?

Simon Howard Harwood, 27 November 2019

How is UV degradation controlled? Over time the material is likely to be affected by UV light and disperse micro particles into the environment. Plastic micro particles are a major problem that requires urgent action to reduce impact on the biosphere.

Glenn Brickell, 27 November 2019

Wow fantastic and also much lighter so MHO/ mechanical handling much less hazardous. Bring it on.

Ron Brumby, 27 November 2019

A U-value of 0.25, a tenth of that for a clay brick, is impressive, but the other important, real world statistic is missing. THE COST.

David Moore, 27 November 2019

Are these commercially available yet? I’m building a new house and would like details, cost, method of construction and adherence to other building materials etc

Tom Burns, 27 November 2019

All comments need answers including how will finishes be applied?

John Willmott, 27 November 2019

Being 3d printed I would have thought they would have been printed with an interlocking system such as Lego saving the need for a mortar which surely would be more efficient in construction and energy saving

Scott Downer, 27 November 2019

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