The Self-Building Concrete Block System Anyone Can Use

If you’ve ever hefted a single concrete block, you can probably guess how much labor and skill is involved in manipulating hundreds of them to create a building structure. That kind of skilled labor comes at a cost that can sometimes be too steep for economically disadvantaged populations.

That’s why Mexico-based construction supply company Armados Omega is pursuing a different approach: interlocking, binder-free blocks that don’t require professional builders.

The self-building system, dubbed Block ARMO, is essentially a giant, vertical puzzle. The material uses six different shapes that interlock intuitively to provide a structurally sound final assembly. (Metal rods are inserted at set intervals to provide support.) Because no mixing of concrete or other binding material is required, it’s expected that ARMO could cut construction time in half.

Architect Jorge Capistrán, owner of Armados Omega, says he has built more than 300 rooms in Sierra Negra, Puebla in this fashion, with total costs reduced by over 20 percent. The company is hoping to ramp up production of the blocks to meet housing needs as well as expand the line to provide different colors, accents, and textures.

[h/t Architecture and Design]

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Buckingham Palace Was Built With Jurassic Fossils, Scientists Find

The UK's Buckingham Palace is a vestige from another era, and not just because it was built in the early 18th century. According to a new study, the limestone used to construct it is filled with the fossilized remains of microbes from the Jurassic period of 200 million years ago, as The Telegraph reports.

The palace is made of oolitic limestone, which consists of individual balls of carbonate sediment called ooids. The material is strong but lightweight, and is found worldwide. Jurassic oolite has been used to construct numerous famous buildings, from those in the British city of Bath to the Empire State Building and the Pentagon.

A new study from Australian National University published in Scientific Reports found that the spherical ooids in Buckingham Palace's walls are made up of layers and layers of mineralized microbes. Inspired by a mathematical model from the 1970s for predicting the growth of brain tumors, the researchers created a model that explains how ooids are created and predicts the factors that limit their ultimate size.

A hand holding a chunk of oolite limestone
Australian National University

They found that the mineralization of the microbes forms the central core of the ooid, and the layers of sediment that gather around that core feed those microbes until the nutrients can no longer reach the core from the outermost layer.

This contrasts with previous research on how ooids form, which hypothesized that they are the result of sediment gathered from rolling on the ocean floor. It also reshapes how we think about the buildings made out of oolitic limestone from this period. Next time you look up at the Empire State Building or Buckingham Palace, thank the ancient microbes.

[h/t The Telegraph]

Ker Robertson, Getty Images
5 Scrapped Designs for the World's Most Famous Buildings
Ker Robertson, Getty Images
Ker Robertson, Getty Images

When an architect gets commissioned to build a skyscraper or a memorial, they’re usually not the only applicant for the job. Other teams of designers submit their own ideas for how it should look, too, but these are eventually passed over in favor of the final design. This is the case for some of the world’s most recognizable landmarks—in an alternate world, the Arc de Triomphe might have been a three-story-tall elephant statue, and the Lincoln Memorial a step pyramid.

GoCompare, a comparison site for financial services, dug into these could-have-been designs for Alternate Architecture, an illustrated collection of scrapped designs for some of the most famous structures in the world, from Chicago's Tribune Tower to the Sydney Opera House.

Click through the interactive graphic below to explore rejected designs for all five landmarks.


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