London architecture firm, Bureau de Change, has developed a range of patterned tiles using Thames Glass, a bio-glass made from invasive mussel shells.
Glass is already a sustainable material since it can be recycled indefinitely. Thames Glass, however, uses zero-kilometre waste materials such as Quagga mussel shells. In the UK, this invasive species often blocks channels so they need to be removed and end up piled up in landfills.
The bio-glass, created by Lulu Harisson, a student of Master Material Futures at Central Saint Martins, is made from ground shells of Quagga mussels combined with sand and waste wood ash.
Bureau de Change’s founders, Katerina Dionysopoulou and Billy Mavropoulous, explored the possibility of using the bio-glass as an eco-friendly cladding for buildings. The result is a series of cast glass facade tiles with motifs inspired by 19th-century terracotta chimney pots.
“Thames Glass has the potential to become a sustainable cladding material in the future,” Mavropoulos told Dezeen.
“Glass as a material is already sustainable, as it is infinitely recyclable,” he said. “Thames Glass offers an even more sustainable alternative because it uses local waste materials.”
The collaboration between Harrison and the architecture firm came about to find a way to give the mussel shells a use. Their experiments using this material resulted in glass products, including tumblers, carafes, jugs, and vases. Finally, it progressed into a concept that can be used on an architectural scale.
Mavropoulos shared that he believes that eco-glass could have a real future in the architecture sector, albeit without any challenges.
He explained that the handmade nature of the glass means that each tile varies in colour and texture, with imperfections throughout. The safety and durability of the material would be difficult to test because each tile is unique.
“Each tile has its micro-texture that beautifully interacts with light,” he added. “Together with the material grain, the casting process’s traces create depth and enhance the Victorian motifs.”