Here you can see Sumit patiently waiting for the cast to dry. The anticipation is high. Will this piece be the one ending up on one of your walls?
This is the daily process of crafting the Epiclay modules. As mentioned in the last article, (5 Reasons Why Clay is a Sustainable Building Material) we use clay as a base material for the modules to ensure a sustainable green wall solution. However, things do not always work out the way you want them to. At first glance, it may seem easy to fabricate the Epiclay green wall modules, but in reality, it is a highly technical and delicate process that requires expert knowledge and many iterations until the perfect module comes out.
While experimenting with the green wall modules, there was once a question that kept us awake at night for weeks. How do we ensure a sustainable green wall solution even during production? We are aware that during the manufacturing of the green wall modules, CO2 will be emitted. Moreover, many pieces don’t come out as expected, especially during experimentation, but we didn’t want to throw them away. So we came up with the following solutions: 1) maintain a low carbon footprint, and 2) reuse each unsuccessful module.
Maintaining a low carbon footprint
Let’s do some calculations. First off, Epiclay’s green wall modules and the standard clay brick are both baked at the same temperature range. The average CO2 emissions for clay brick manufacturing in the USA and Canada is 232.25 g of CO2 per kg of brick for a natural gas-fired kiln. The same goes for the Epiclay green wall modules. Besides, the standard brick weighs 1.9 kg on average, which is roughly the same as one Epiclay module. To cover one square meter of brick you need 50 pieces while using Epiclay requires 16 units. Moreover, one square meter of the Epiclay green wall modules weighs 32 kg and emits 7.5 kg of CO2 during production, whereas one square meter of brick weighs 100 kg and emits 24 kg of CO2.
Now to the fun part. One square meter of planted Epiclay green wall modules absorbs 11 kg of CO2 within a year. This means that it takes 80 days for one square meter of Epiclay’s green wall modules to become carbon neutral.
Reusing every module
We have experimented with various clay compositions to achieve our desired performance. At the moment, we hand-craft every piece ourselves. Unfortunately, there are modules that break, crack, or do not release from the mold as smoothly as they could during our production process. However, nothing goes to waste. The imperfect modules are dried along with the unscathed ones. Afterwards, the damaged pieces are broken further into small fragments and set aside. After gathering enough of these fragments, we mix them back into a clay slip and reuse them to cast new ones until we get a perfect batch of modules (like in the picture below). Because of this experience, we realized that we can do the same process in large-scale production to save resources.
Overall, crafting the modules while adhering to the sustainability standards is challenging. Even though many pieces break during the process, we don’t let that shatter our dream. We pick each piece up and continue until the modules come out perfectly. Despite the difficulties we face every day, we would never change this experience for anything else.