Daniel Madariaga Barrilado: Sargasso bricks
will boost sustainable constructions

The sargassum had an important growth in the Mexican coasts due to the consequences of climate change. Specialists 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 media. Sustainability experts, such as Daniel Madariaga Barrilado, explained that the sector has found a solution and has begun to take advantage of the 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 adheres to the seabed and is abundant in the ocean. The round branches and structures that make up the plant are actually gas-filled structures, called pneumatocysts, which are filled mainly 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 the beaches and causing millions in the sector, mainly in Quintana Roo. The causes of this disaster are related to climate change and the lack of care for the planet's resources.

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

Sargassum benefits for construction

It has been proven that building sargassum bricks, is not only less expensive than conventional ones, but also has greater durability. This is explained by Daniel Madariaga,

“Not only did we find that construction costs would be reduced by up to 50 percent, but it has been proven that sargassum blocks have a longer useful time compared to cement, with a 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 anywhere in the country, under any type of weather ”,

This trend is expanding in different cities of 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, from studies carried out, found that the resistance of the bricks created from sargassum is between 75 and 120 kilos, while the durability can be of up to 120 years, and - what is of vital importance -, regardless of the region or type of climate where they are used.

Daniel Madariaga Barrillado explains, “At present there are no sustainable materials so resistant even with this long period of life. Through the sargassum, ecological and sustainable and ecological constructions will be achieved ” The specialist also added that “these strategies to take advantage of resources that are apparently wasteful, will contribute to the creation of smart cities in which they are able to take advantage of absolutely all the resources they have. In the particular case of Quintana Roo, it has already been successfully implemented ”. This construction model can be replicated without a doubt soon in other states, such as Durango, Zacatecas, or the State of Mexico.

Other possible uses of sargassum

Faced with this natural phenomenon, different industries and specialists have highlighted some of the other benefits of sargassum. 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 compounds for biofuels; 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 coming to the coast and turn it into organic products. Some of the products that are made with 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 new life to these algae. Under this same line, the cup holders and menus for restaurants are also produced with sargassum.

Natural cosmetics have a growing presence in the market, and now Mexican entrepreneurs have begun some innovations in the area by developing products made from sargassum. Treatments to strengthen hair, 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 “gift of pineapple”, 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 fat absorption. Read more about how Daniel Madariaga is helping to solve Mexico's environmental problems.