Daniel Madariaga Barrilado: Sargassum bricks will promote sustainable construction”

Sargassum had significant growth on the Mexican coast due to the consequences of climate change. Specialists have now devised a way to reduce and reuse it in a way that will contribute to the realization of sustainable homes, and at a lower cost than traditional means. Sustainability experts, such as Daniel Madariaga Barrilado, explained that the sector has found a solution and has begun to take advantage of sargassum with a sustainable approach.

What is sargassum and why its proliferation

Sargassum is a type of algae that floats in island masses and never sticks to the seabed and is abundant in the ocean. The branches and round structures that make up the plant are actually gas-filled structures, called pneumatocysts, that are primarily filled with oxygen. Pneumatocysts add buoyancy to the plant structure and allow it to float on the surface.

Since 2015, we have observed how sargassum has proliferated in tourist areas, affecting beaches and causing millions in the sector, mainly in Quintana Roo.

The causes of this disaster are related to climate change and little care for the planet's resources.

On the one hand, the temperature of the sea has increased, promoting the reproduction of sargassum. Additionally, the agrochemical discharges to the ocean are added, as the case of nitrogen, which are nutrients for these algae, and finally, the modifications of the marine currents due to the melting of the poles and the glaciers, bring more sargassum to the coast , with a record one million tons accumulated this year.

Benefits of Sargassum for construction

It has been proven that building sargassum bricks is not only less expensive than conventional bricks, but also has greater durability.

This is how Daniel Madariaga explains it,

"Not only did we find that construction costs would be reduced by up to 50 percent, but it has been found that sargassum blocks have a longer useful time compared to cement blocks, with durability of up to 120 years. Another factor for which we promote this construction model is that they could be used to build houses or buildings in any part of the country, under any type of climate ”,

This trend is expanding in different cities around the world, and in Miami, Brazil, the Philippines, Andorra or Hong Kong, among other tourist destinations, sustainable hotels have already been built from sargassum.

Going to more technical data, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of Quintana Roo, based on studies carried out, verified that the resistance of bricks created from sargassum is between 75 and 120 kilos, while the durability can be of up to 120 years, and - which is of vital importance -, regardless of the region or type of climate in which they are used.

Daniel Madariaga Barrillado explains that “currently there are no such resistant sustainable materials nor with this long period of life. Through sargassum, ecological and sustainable and ecological constructions will be achieved ”

The specialist also added that “these strategies for the use of resources that appear to be waste, will contribute to the creation of smart cities in which the use of absolutely all the resources available to them. In the particular case of Quintana Roo it has already been successfully implemented. ”

Este modelo de construcción se podrá replicar sin duda pronto en otros estados, como Durango, Zacatecas, o Estado de México.

Other possible uses of sargassum

Faced with this natural phenomenon, different industries and specialists have highlighted some of the other benefits that sargassum has. For example, it contains alginic acid, which can be applied as a thickener and emulsifier in the food industry; it has cellulose and hemicellulose, which are paper raw materials; generates ethanol, one of the main biofuel compounds; and it was discovered that its properties also make it an excellent fertilizer.

Knowing all this, the Mexicans went to work to take advantage of the sargassum that is reaching the coasts and turn it into organic products.

Some of the products that are made from sargassum are notebooks and paper that can also be used for packaging and crafts. It is a friendly material, since it avoids the use of trees and gives a new life to these algae. Along this same line, the cup holders and restaurant menus are also produced with sargassum.

Natural cosmetics has a growing presence in the market, and now Mexican entrepreneurs have started some innovations in the area developing products made from sargassum.

Hair strengthening treatments, as well as makeup, moisturizers, and sunscreens are some of the products that are being produced.

The food and beverage industry is not lagging behind in the use of sargassum. The first cocktail drink based on these algae has already been created. It is the “pineapple gift”, whose name is a tribute to the Mayan culture that in ancient times offered a pineapple as a welcome gift to its guests.

In addition, it is good to mention that sargassum is rich in iodine, bromine, mineral salts and vitamins, and that it also contains properties that benefit the absorption of fats.

Read more about how Daniel Madariaga is helping to solve Mexico's environmental problems.