Sustainable Building Materials Draw Inspiration From Beer

The following post is an update and extension to our 2011 post on Bricks From Recycled Plastic.

We spoke with Thomas Biguet, Director of Marketing at Miniwiz, about the past, present, and future of the Taipei-based sustainable design firm.

In this day and age, it seems that technology and sustainability are advancing at roughly the same pace. As new science emerges, so too do new ways of reducing energy consumption and waste production. The most obvious example of this symbiotic relationship is in the automotive field – new engines are designed to be lighter and more powerful, but also more efficient. As a result, cars give off less CO2 and still perform at a high level.

If scientists had it their way, this partnership would be prevalent across all industries. Ideally, high-quality products will be created through sustainable methods and from recycled materials. It is this concept that forms the primary influence behind one company’s desire to build better structures with minimal environmental impact.

From the trash pile to the pub

Sustainable solution development company Miniwiz is in the materials business. They specialize in producing durable, high-performance and aesthetically tasteful plastics out of recycled materials, sometimes combining them with agricultural waste. Miniwiz claims that one of its products, Polli-ber, emits 40 percent less carbon during its lifecycle than traditional plastics and uses two-thirds less energy in manufacturing than new products. In addition, Polli-ber has a range of applications.

“These 100 percent made-from-trash materials can replace usual plastics for any type of application,” explained Thomas Biguet, marketing director for Miniwiz. “From packaging to construction, from interior design to consumer product parts, Polli-Ber materials meet the usual physical requirements of plastic application while adding their special aesthetic touch. And they are fully re-recyclable.”

“These bricks can bring an interesting element of design to a space.”

Miniwiz bricks bring taste, sustainability to construction
The Polli-ber material might have its most interesting and dynamic use when presented in the form of sturdy, semi-translucent bricks. With a fast assembly and no mortar or on-site cutting necessary, the Polli-ber bricks offer an appealing solution with little environmental impact. The bricks can be produced using a variety of agricultural waste materials, such as unusable rice, wheat husks and other bio-materials.

“The recycled, surface-treated agricultural waste used as an additive in the matrix of Polli-Ber is the key to this family of materials,” Thomas elaborated. “It strengthens the material, while making it lighter than traditional plastics.”

Of course, as with any building material, the product must undergo rigorous testing from an independent analytical laboratory before a builder can use it. For sustainability, Miniwiz adheres to sets of guidelines from the Generics and Biosimilars Initiative in addition to ISO 14040. In addition, the trash that forms the fundamental ingredients for Polli-ber must also be up to standards. Thomas maintains that Miniwiz follows several quality control practices to guarantee consistency.

The benefits of the Polli-ber brick go beyond low environmental impact and easy implementation. Due to their unique shape and visual appeal, these bricks can bring an interesting element of design to a space. But there’s more to it than that.

Miniwiz Brewery
Who knew beer could have an architectural influence?

The soul of a building
Miniwiz recently completed a project in New Taipei City, Taiwan, for a bar and restaurant chain that utilized the Polli-ber bricks. In opening their fifth and largest location – also a brewery – the chain wanted something different – something that would stand apart from previous iterations and evoke the sense of a space dedicated to its craft.

“If it is possible to describe a building as having a soul, then this is it.”

For the interior design, Miniwiz decided to decorate with Polli-ber bricks created from waste in the beer manufacturing process – wheat husk, hops, and so on. Then the company arranged these specialized bricks in such a way as to evoke the brewing process. The ceiling features circular, amber shapes and swirls, bringing to mind the stirred vats of yeast or barley, hops, water and any other additives. Semi-transparent bricks with a golden-brown hue form the walls, with chairs to match, echoing the color of a rich-bodied brown ale.

Most importantly, the bricks themselves, created by way of the brewing process, provide a symmetry to the structure that newly-fashioned products would be unable to offer. In a real sense, it was the art of beer-making that made this restaurant possible.

If it is possible to describe a building as having a soul, then this is it. The history of brewing is in the walls and ceilings of the brewery itself, and those stories are present for the patrons who enjoy the space.

This technique figures to be one that other buildings may want to emulate – especially other restaurants and bars. The ability to say that elements of the building were created from the very thing that customers will be eating and drinking is a powerful statement and a beautiful symmetry that will likely resonate with patrons. Not only that, but by relying upon recycled and recylable building elements, ownership can support sustainability and do its part to offset carbon emissions.

As companies like Miniwiz expand and others join the industry, it may soon be possible to find buildings like the one in Taiwan all over the world. Then, consumers can take comfort in the fact that the scraps on their plate may help build the restaurants of tomorrow.