Nexus alum and start-up Angirus uses waste to create a low emission and ecofriendly alternative to traditional clay bricks.
Wricks are made from recycled industrial and plastic waste. Photograph by Roman Novitskii/iStock/Getty Images and courtesy Angirus (inset)
Bricks are one of those objects that are easy to overlook because we see them everywhere. Even easier to forget is that the production of a single brick has an impact on the environment. It consumes energy and topsoil in the manufacturing process, and each brick releases 100gm of CO2 in the air during the kiln firing process. Now, take that one brick and multiply it by the 260 billion bricks produced annually in India. The problem is impossible to overlook.
Nexus alum Angirus is a start-up based out of Udaipur, Rajasthan, that produces an environmentally-conscious alternative to traditional bricks. Known as Wricks, they are a merging of waste and bricks. This environmentally-friendly, carbon-neutral, strong, lightweight and economically-sound product offers a revolutionary solution, and points the way toward sustainable construction practices.
Traditional production practices
Kunjpreet Arora, co-founder of Angirus explains that traditional production practices to create bricks are unbalanced as they consume more resources than they provide. “Traditional clay bricks are made in brick kilns using top layer fertile soil, water and biomass fuel for heating,” describes Arora. “This is a seven to 14-day process of extracting the soil and clay, making a homogenous mixture, letting it dry under sunlight and baking into kilns using coal and biomass fuel.”
The problem here is two-fold. Not only are precious resources expended in the form of water and topsoil, but the firing process produces new pollutants. “Within each process, there are actions of taking something from the environment, the raw materials, and giving something to the environment, the production of waste,” Arora says.
It takes significant heat energy to produce a brick and the traditional process is not environmentally conscious. “These methods are inefficient, requiring a lot of energy and topsoil, and pose a significant threat to health and the environment through the large amounts of particulate matter, black carbon, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and other pollutants they release into the atmosphere,” explains Arora.
Angirus has found an ecofriendly solution in Wricks, turning waste into a useful product, while creating a carbon-neutral impact in its kiln-free production process.
Besides the environmental benefits, Wricks are a superior product to the traditional brick in many ways. Wricks are water-resistant, damp-proof, 30 percent lighter than traditional bricks, and just as strong—or stronger—than traditional clay bricks. In this way, monetary and environmental benefits cooperate with one another. After all, being 30 percent lighter means that Wricks not only “reduce the overall structural weight, thus bringing the costs down, but also increase labor working capacity,” Arora says. Being damp-proof and water-resistant can be especially beneficial in coastal and humid environments.
And the environmental benefits cannot be denied. “The most significant environmental benefit of Wricks is that they are made without using our precious natural resources and water, which is already a scarce resource in India. And they do not release such harmful components of greenhouse gases into the environment.”
The market’s inertia
The first bricks were made thousands of years ago, so there is significant headwind to creating a willingness for change in the marketplace, but also an implication that the product could benefit from a 21st-century update. “Changing one’s perspective from traditional bricks to Wricks is quite challenging,” says Arora.“However, we have also seen a positive response from environmentally-conscious builders and architects. We plan to start with this segment first.” From there, once confidence and real-world data are obtained, market expansion will be possible to accelerate.
A great help in getting this revolutionary product off the ground has been the Nexus start-up hub, of which Angirus is an alum. “Nexus proved to be a great opportunity for Angirus and me,” says Arora. “The sessions were beneficial to understand the market in-depth, connect with international and national mentors and product validation. And it’s a great platform to connect with like-minded people, other start-ups in similar spaces and enthusiastic people across the globe.”
The program has also helped Arora continue to build a network through Nexus. “I still get inquiries and connections from people who get to know about Angirus through Nexus. There are a lot of other opportunities, workshops and sessions by the U.S. delegates that have been shared with us and encourage us to be part of it.”
With the United States’ 2050 goal of carbon neutrality, it is possible for Wricks to enter other markets as well. “I see a great opportunity for Angirus in the U.S. market,” says Arora. “We can help the United States achieve its carbon neutrality goal by 2050 by switching from brick kilns to Wricks technology.”
Trevor L. Jockims teaches writing, literature and contemporary culture at New York University.