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Architects of nature: growing buildings with bacterial biofilms

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Martyn Dade-Robertson



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


In his text ‘On Architecture’, Vitruvius suggested that architecture is an imitation of nature. Here we discuss what happens when we begin using nature in architecture. We describe recent developments in the study of biofilm structure, and propose combining modern architecture and synthetic microbiology to develop sustainable construction approaches. Recently, Kolodkin-Gal laboratory and others revealed a role for precipitation of calcium carbonate in the maturation and assembly of bacterial communities with complex structures. Importantly, they demonstrated that different secreted organic materials shape the calcium carbonate crystals formed by the bacterial cells. This provides a proof-of-concept for a potential use of bacteria in designing rigid construction materials and altering crystal morphology and function. In this study, we discuss how these recent discoveries may change the current strategies of architecture and construction. We believe that biofilm communities enhanced by synthetic circuits may be used to construct buildings and to sequester carbon dioxide in the process.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Dade-Robertson M, Keren-Paz A, Zhang M, Kolodkin-Gal I

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Microbial Biotechnology

Year: 2017

Volume: 10

Issue: 5

Pages: 1157-1163

Print publication date: 01/09/2017

Online publication date: 16/08/2017

Acceptance date: 18/07/2017

Date deposited: 28/09/2017

ISSN (electronic): 1751-7915

Publisher: Wiley


DOI: 10.1111/1751-7915.12833


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