Dezeen Magazine

YiBrick Permeable by Yi Design on a pile of ceramic waste

Yi Design turns ceramic waste into water-permeable bricks

Chinese materials company Yi Design has developed a porous brick made from recycled ceramic waste that could be used to prevent flooding in urban areas.

The Permeable YiBrick is made from 90 per cent recycled ceramic waste sourced from industrial porcelain manufacturers in the city of Jingdezhen, which is known as the ceramics capital of China.

Person holding YiBrick Permeable by Yi Design
Permeable YiBrick are made from ceramic waste

Yi Design was established by curator and artist Caroline Cheng and designer Karl Yin in response to the enormous volume of waste materials generated by the country's ceramics manufacturers.

According to the company, China produces approximately 18 million tonnes of ceramic waste each year, the majority of which is dumped or buried illegally.


Pile of ceramic waste in China
China produces millions of tonnes of ceramic waste every year

Yi Design collects waste from selected local producers, before grinding and binding it together using a specially developed non-organic chemical binder, which the company claims is free from plastics and cement.

The resulting material is used to create a series of durable products such as bricks and glazed tiles in the company's own factory in Jingdezhen, which was set up in 2021.

The Permeable YiBrick uses up to 97 per cent recycled waste in its production, making the product both highly porous and robust.

As a result, the building blocks can be used as a more absorbent alternative to conventional cement bricks in various architectural contexts.

"This brick can harvest rainwater, redirecting it from the sewage system to the water table by permeating through the ground," Cheng told Dezeen.

"It is perfect for sponge cities – urban spaces that retain stormwater before gradually filtering and releasing it – or for outdoor use in paving areas and gardens," she added. "It can also be used as a base of water fountains."

YiBrick Permeable by Yi Design next to piles of ceramic waste
The waste is ground and merged together using a binder

The company's products have already been used in several projects including the tiled wall of a store for fashion brand COS in Shanghai's Century Plaza shopping mall.

The Permeable YiBrick is shortlisted in the sustainable building product category of the 2023 Dezeen Awards alongside a hexagonal paver system by Norwegian firm Snøhetta and Erosion Mitigation Units made from recycled oyster shells.

Earlier this year, we rounded up seven examples of alternatives to conventional bricks, including products made using construction waste, expanded cork and human urine.