Mexican Entrepreneur Makes Homes Out of Seaweed

A man from Quintana Roo, Mexico who invented a brick partially made out of sargassum seaweed has now built 13 “sargablock” homes for low-income families.

Omar Vázquez Sánchez came up with the idea of making bricks with sargassum in 2018, when he was already selling the seaweed as a fertilizer to customers at his nursery. His first sargablock building was modeled after his grandmother’s small home.

He now has 16 full-time employees dedicated to collecting sargassum and making bricks with it. The smelly, unsightly seaweed washes up on the white-sand beaches of Quintana Roo – sometimes in huge quantities – during the lengthy annual sargassum season.

His bricks are made from ground sargassum, limestone and other organic material. The sargassum content of each sargablock is about 40%. The sargassum mixture is fed into a block-making machine, which compresses and molds it into bricks. After drying in the sun for around six hours, the sargablocks are ready to be used in construction projects. His machine can make about 3,000 blocks a day.

Vázquez said “We help clean up all of this sargassum, which kills fish and the reef, and we create jobs for people in need.”

Vázquez said that his first sargablock home is still intact after surviving five hurricanes and six tropical storms. Only a very small amount of water is required to make the innovative building material, he said.

The 13 homes Vázquez has built with sargablocks – each of which requires up to 20 tons of seaweed and some 2,000 bricks – have been donated to low-income Quintana Roo families. One of the beneficiaries said, “It was pretty much our Christmas present. The house is beautiful. It’s refreshing. Cool in the heat. And we feel safer.”

Along with his mother and siblings, Vazquez emigrated to the United States as a child and worked in agricultural fields instead of studying. He later worked as a landscaper in California’s wine region, but the lure of returning to his homeland remained. “I always wanted to come back to Mexico and live my Mexican dream. Not the American dream … I wanted to come back and do something for my country.”

Vazquez wants his brickmaking operation to be “one of the most important businesses in the country so that others don’t have to emigrate elsewhere, leaving their family and suffering like we did.

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