Episode 46 - Growing Better Buildings: An Interview with Ginger Dosier of bioMASON

 

 

 

Jessica McNaughton: Hi, this is Jessica McNaughton with build green, live green, the CaraGreen podcast on green building materials and innovative new building materials. One of which we are going to be talking about today. We have Ginger Dosier here and she is the CEO of bioMASON. Welcome Ginger. 

 


Ginger Dosier: Thank you so much for having me. 

 


Jessica McNaughton: So, you grow bricks. What can you tell us about bioMason and the products that you guys have? 

 


Ginger Dosier: Oh, absolutely. So, we use a microorganism to produce a cement in between grains of aggregate. So, it's very similar to what's happening and natural seashell formation or natural coral reefs. So, a very similar process that's actually already found in the marine environment. And so, what we're doing is we're collaborating with nature using those microorganisms and growing a cement between grains of aggregate. And right now, we're making different precast shapes currently there in TeleForm. What's exciting about the material is that it has an engineered performance meaning that we can actually grow it to specification, to whatever performance we need. So, our current products are called bioLITH tile, and we make those in two different sizes and two different colors and they are outperforming concrete tiles and clay tops. 

 


Jessica McNaughton: That's great. So, one of the things that CaraGreen talks a lot about internally, well, not internally, but we have a presentation on this too, that we do for AIA, architects continuing education is a biomimicry. So, that sounds like that's what you're talking about here is basically taking cues from nature and bringing them into building materials. 

 


Ginger Dosier: That's right. And you know, it's actually funny that you mentioned this because one of the inspirations for starting this work and eventually the company was, I was just recently graduated from architecture school and I'd picked up the book called biomimicry and was just fascinated by how many different technologies and innovations that were coming out just by studying how the natural world works. And so, there was something that just started clicking in my mind about, you know, curious enough, how is nature able to grow these strong and durable products underwater. And yet we use all these mining operations and heat to create a product that, you know, doesn't even perform as well as some of those natural formations. So, that was actually the Genesis of a lot of this work was after reading that great book. 

 


Jessica McNaughton: So, one of the things you mentioned was concrete, and I feel like a lot of building materials, we become so reliant on them because they've been such a staple that there's a lot of inertia when it comes to replacing those types of materials. I see it in gypsum drywall and in concrete and another great example. I mean, those products tend to have a lot of embodied energy. What can you, can you talk about bioMason and the embodied energy in that process? 

 


Ginger Dosier: Oh, absolutely. So, if we first take a quick look at concrete, it's fascinating to learn that it's the second most consumed substance in the world following water. It emits one kilogram of CO2 per one kilogram produced. And the reason why it does that is it's essential to produce cement, they take calcium, they mind calcium carbonate and when they Cal sign it, they're just after the calcium. So, that carbon essentially goes into the atmosphere. So, what we're doing is we're building with carbon as opposed to releasing that carbon. So, our microorganisms, they exhibit an enzyme which enables calcium carbonate to form around them. So, the solution that we, I'm just gonna use this word, feed our materials as they're being produced, it's kind of like seawater. So, it has a calcium source and a carbon source in there that those two come together around the microorganism and around the aggregate. And that's actually what's forming it. So, we're not releasing any carbon from this process, we're actually building with it. 

 


Jessica McNaughton: So, one of the terms that you keep referring to is, you know, bacteria or microorganism, you know, you must run into people, just having questions about, you know, is there bacteria inside this building? I mean, how can you, can you talk to, you know, the, kind of the nature of the products once they're formed and address that a little bit? 

 


Ginger Dosier: Oh, absolutely. So, what we're doing in manufacturing is we're creating this perfect environment for these microorganisms or bacteria to flourish. So, we're targeting, you know, their exact nutrient needs that's required for this process to happen. So, if you think about how long it takes to grow a natural reef versus, you know, our 72 hours to produce our products that go above compression strength of concrete, you don't have that outside of manufacturing. So, once the production process is done, essentially the bacteria, they die or they go into a dormant state. They're not, you know, in an environment that has their nutrient requirements or the amount of calcium, the amount of carbon that they need. 

 


Jessica McNaughton: That's great. So, you know, I've seen your product, I got some samples and it looks really strong to me. You're saying here it's stronger than concrete. What are the biggest hurdles that bioMason's going to face in getting this to become a mainstream product and how are you initially taking it to market kind of what applications and so on?

 


Ginger Dosier:  Great, great question. So, you know, because when we first started working with the process, you know, I did initially determine, you know, let's, let's stick with something that the lowest common denominator of architecture and that is brick. So, we started with bricks and we were growing, you know, bricks in different sizes and shapes. We moved to tile because one, there, you know, there was a larger market that we found at that time. We also, for the first time started polishing the product after we manufactured it and quickly learned that it was quite beautiful and it reminded us of a natural stone, which is exactly what the material is. It's 85% waste aggregates, which are of a granite source and then 15% calcium carbonate. So, essentially very close to a limestone product. You know, for us, it's really about leveraging, you know, the performance aspects of the product right now and manufacturing these tiles and these two different shapes. But in terms of a longer-term strategy, we are looking at going, you know, to different precast sizes, different pavers, you know, different sizes of pavers, much larger, you know, than some of the standard pavers that you find. But you know, the long-term strategy is to, you know, look to replace Portland cement. That's, that's one of the Genesis of why this company was started. And we believe that it makes a lot more sense to build with carbon rather than a limit or emitting the carbon from our natural resources that we have. So, in our large long-term strategy, we are looking into how can we get into a ready mix or a pour in place type of technology with, you know, using or leveraging biology. 

 


Jessica McNaughton: One of the things that I noticed early on was kind of this concept that you guys had of basically dropping a container somewhere, and you could build all the bricks and all the concrete kind of within that container and kind of do almost like onsite construction. Is that still part of the strategy? 

 


Ginger Dosier: It still remains one of our strategies, what we've learned is that going through our own model where, you know, in the beginning, we were thinking of a model where it was very similar to Coca-Cola where we manufacture the organisms and the materials that are required for the organisms very much like a Coca-Cola model, making that syrup, and then distributing that. What we found is that while our production process is very similar to what you would find at a precast block plant, we still have a lot of knowledge about how the manufacturing needs to happen and, you know, have actually become quite good at our own scaling paradigm. So, what we're doing right now, we're in a high growth stage and we are, you know, our first plant is online right now. And then next year we're bringing an additional plant online, as well as increasing the size of our current plant. So, our strategy is really thinking of it more of a model of increasing the scales of those plants that we have currently, as well as the design for. And then looking at a distributed manufacturing model in the future. And especially I think when it gets to that ready-mix type of concept, that's when, you know, we just want to be able to add water, you know, to the process. And you're able to have that hardened product that, you know, ideally is actually done in less time, which is already done in less curious and less time than our traditional Portland-based cement are today. 

 


Jessica McNaughton: So, the applications for this can be interior or exterior. 

 


Ginger Dosier: That's correct. 

 


Jessica McNaughton: And you are thinking about scaling it up. So, is it reasonable to think that this could be like a cladding or like a slab material at some point in the future?

 


Ginger Dosier: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that's where you know, the version of our technology right now, it fits within a precast factory model. And eventually our goal and objective is to, you know, be able to do that site-cast or cast in place and make, you know, much larger pores if you will with that. But, you know, with the technology today, you know, as mentioned, you know, we started off, we actually started off with bricks and pavers. We moved to tile, we'll go back to pavers and then to larger types of precast tiles and pavers and panels with that. 

 


Jessica McNaughton: So, let me ask you another question along that line, you know, with CaraGreen, being heavy in the surfacing space, we've seen this shift towards obvious sustainability and you guys are almost like the utopian version of what a sustainable surface would be, being this huge carbon sink, and now polishing where you would get that kind of top surface. There's almost a requirement merging that I'm starting to see where people are looking for either some sort of bactericidal, anti-microbial, some sort of treatment or technology incorporated within surfaces that would keep them from spreading germs or disease or anything like that. Is that something that you guys anticipate looking at, have looked at? 

 

 

Ginger Dosier: It's a great question because it is something that we initially looked into and honestly, from the beginning, it was, you know, thinking about, you know, how people might feel about knowing that, you know, bacteria, you know, created this product itself, but you know, certainly a lot of the work that I was doing before bioMason was in high-performance materials and looking at, you know, unique additives that are naturally based such as, you know, pollution, absorbing materials, for example, or I did look very briefly into some anti-microbial inventions or additives to put into, you know, various products. So, it's certainly advantageous with the way that the process works currently, because you know, we're starting off with an aggregate matrix. There are additional additives that we will be developing that can go into that and additional performance attributes that we can develop. And essentially just because we are building an engineered material.

 


Jessica McNaughton: Well, I'll kind of start to, to wrap it up here a little bit, but can you tell our listeners where your website is, how they can get samples, how they can find out more and you know, just kinda point them, point them to the bioMason website? 

 


Ginger Dosier: Absolutely. Absolutely. We're very happy to report that we've updated, a great update to our website, and there's a lot of interesting.

 


Jessica McNaughton: I was going through it, it looks amazing.

 


Ginger Dosier: Thank you so much. They did an incredible job. I have to say it's been great working with you, you know, a new sales marketing team. I say new, it was just me before, so an increase team. But yes, you know, go to biomason.com. There you'll find a lot of great information there, a lot about the things I was mentioning about performance, you know, where it's, you know, comparing our product to a concrete block in terms of the performance. So, you know, how much percentage we're over that, we're very, very proud of our performance metrics. We also have some other sides of the business in terms of technologies that we've been working with the department of defense on which just go through some different examples of really how to utilize and harness biology, but for samples. There are several links that you can click on, on our website that will take you to sales@biomason.com. You can follow us on Instagram, please, you know, go through Twitter. There are many different ways of getting samples and, you know, we love to hear from different people, especially about what their ideas are about how they want to use the product. You know, we're highly engaged with anyone who, you know, has a question. We have a new FAQ section on our website as well, which is great for, you know, going through some of those general questions that come up, but, you know, our website, you know, now re-branded has a lot of different ways of learning a little bit more about who we are, but also the product itself, additional products that we have and then how to get in touch with us. 

Jessica McNaughton: That's great. And obviously we follow you on Instagram. And one thing I didn't mention was that bioMason is actually here in the RTP region of North Carolina, where we are. So, it's been really great to work with you and just have like-minded people that are just innovating, you know, far beyond what in any traditional building material provider really things are possible. So, thank you for everything that you're doing and we will stay in touch and we will, you know, keep track of bioMason and all the great things you guys are coming out with. 

 

Ginger Dosier: Well, thank you so much. And thanks for the opportunity to talk a little bit more and also to, you know, continue connecting over the years. Material-minded individuals.

 

 

 

Jessica McNaughton: Anytime. This is Build Green Live Green.