WATCH | Flushed with success: This engineer is transforming the way we think about urine
The first thing people do when they encounter Vukheta Mukhari’s brick is give it a sniff. That’s because it’s made from human urine.
In a world where resources are consumed faster than they’re developed, we’re running out of material for production while destroying the earth in the process.
“Globally, the construction industry alone contributes one-third of carbon emissions,” Mukhari says. With a flaming passion for the environment, this engineering student is designing eco-friendly solutions.
Along with fellow student Suzanne Lambert, and under the supervision of chemical engineer Dr Dyllon Randall, Mukhari produced the world’s first urine bio-brick at the University of Cape Town.
Ordinary bricks are fired at extremely high temperatures and produce exorbitant amounts of carbon dioxide. But through a natural process called microbial carbonate precipitation, Mukhari can make blocks at room temperature from just sand, bacteria, and human urine.
“The bio-brick is a solution inspired by nature,” he says. The bio-brick is currently under testing for construction uses, and the urine used in the process also doubles up as a fertiliser.
“We’re moving into a world where we’ll start looking at waste as a valuable resource,” Mukhari says.
His project has not only created a sustainable product out of something we normally flush down the toilet, but also inspired a renewed way of thinking.
The bio-brick earned Silver at the 2019 Eco-Logic Awards and Mukhari presented his systems and inventions at the 2020 Design Indaba festival.
“Don’t underestimate how a bizarre idea can change the world,” he says. Mukhari has the will. Now, he’s paving the way and, in turn, sparking a generation of innovators.