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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

How one man is transforming Yucatán’s excess seaweed into homes for those in need

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Omar Vázquez poses in front of the first structure built using his sargassum-based Sargablocks. Photo: Courtesy

The increase of sargassum, or algae, on Yucatán’s beaches, is a growing concern across the Peninsula. 

Aside from being unsightly, when present in large amounts this algae can be quite smelly and make access to the ocean virtually impossible. 

Several efforts have been made to utilize this unwanted form of aquatic vegetation as a productive resource.

In the past, this has mostly taken on the form of schemes of processing the sargassum and turning it into fertilizer.

But an entrepreneur, Omar Vázquez, is turning this aquatic nuisance into construction material to help house immigrants.

“What we are doing is turning the sargassum into what we like to call Sargablocks. When tightly compressed the material can be shaped into the form of bricks and offer a low-cost solution for housing,” said Omar Vázquez of BlueGreen Mexico.

Earlier: Scientists warn some types of sargassum could impact on human health

Vázquez developed the Sargablock back in 2018 but has recently begun building the first homes using the novel material. 

Blue Green Mexico says its Sargablock is extremely resilient, but there is some skepticism regarding how well this material will endure over time. Photo: Courtesy

The first structure built using the Sargablock was nicknamed Casa Angelita and is now being used as a small office for the company.

But more recent construction efforts are now underway to build more Sagablock structures for people living in poverty, as well as refuges for immigrants. 

Vázquez says his structures are extremely solid and durable and hopes that his technology can be used in other regions and countries to help address the ever-worsening global housing crisis. 

As ocean temperatures continue to warm, there is a real fear that the arrival of large amounts of sargassum will continue to be a yearly occurrence. 

A worrisome explosion of the thick, brown seaweed first appeared in 2011. 

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