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Building materials from shells

Research, Materials

Shellcrete is an on-going project transforming shell wastes from fisheries and seafood restaurants into architectural and landscape materials and features.

Shellcrete: Transforming Sea Shells Into Low-Carbon Materials

The process of transforming sea shells into building materials dates back over a thousand years. It has evolved from communities lacking certain natural resources for construction. For the last 15 years we have studied worldwide the historic examples of these inventive processes. Journal article for more information: Building with shells – historical references

Detail of tiles made from waste oyster shells

Currently in the UK most sea shell waste from restaurants is taken to landfill. In one year a busy sea food restaurant can get through 50,000 oysters.

Oyster tile samples
Testing and protyping shell waste

The materials and features we have developed are bespoke outcomes to the landscape, people, processes, craft and specific need of a particular place.

Oyster tile samples
Oyster shell tiles

In 2018 we were involved in an EU funded architecture and waste project with the University of Brighton and Veolia. Local Works Studio were commissioned to make an external cladding material for buildings using 100% waste materials from the city of Brighton. We sourced oyster shell as waste from 2 restaurants in Brighton and blended this with other local waste materials, creating a palette of self-coloured mortars for casting as weatherproof external tiles: Prototyping waste for building insulation

Completed panel of oyster tiles made with waste materials and waste oyster shells
Waste-based tiles with oyster shell

Local Works Studio are continuing to design and prototype shell materials for use as tiles, plasters, renders, bricks, mortars, paints and other cladding and surface finishes. We are also developing a short film documenting the processes and applications of this material.

Oyster tile samples
Oyster shell tiles
Collecting oyster shells from restaurants
Shellcrete: Transforming Sea Shells Into Low-Carbon Materials
Shell from fisheries
Shellcrete textured tile
Asymmetric oyster tiles
Asymmetric oyster tiles
Material research, oyster shells and rock oyster shells
Oysters at Borough Market
Tile detail

Project: Shellcrete

Collaborators:  Dubbel Creative, English’s Oyster Bar, Riddle and Finns restaurant, Brighton.

Location: Brighton and Essex

Date: 2016 – ongoing