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The world is suffering from the creatures of fantasy and nightmares which can appear with just a few minutes of warning anywhere. It can be a single one, or millions that swarm the area. The world's infrastructure has been degrading, food and supplies are harder and harder to come by. While firearms work well against these creatures the bodies left behind attract and breed both insects and disease. It is not feasible to hold on to area's with low populations as a sudden appearance of many nightmares can wipe them out.

As construction materials are harder to come by civilians turn to the only resource they have in abundance: dead bodies. They have slowly but surely started an entire industry around the collection, transport and processing of all the bodies into as many useful things as they can.

The question: How can an abundance of dead bodies be used to create as high-grade as possible building materials. Preferably good enough to repair and maintain a modern city.

Conditions that apply:

  • use of omniversal materials like sand and rock are allowed, assuming they can be combined with some part of the dead bodies.
  • aside from universally available materials, 75% of the building materials has to come from the dead bodies.
  • anything of the creatures can be used. Their skin, bones, remaining fecal matter or small quantities of specialist materials if you see a use. Those nightmarish giant spiders could be harvested for a small quantity of spider silk after all. Use anything and everything of the creature you can or want.
  • the size of the creatures goes from dog-sized to paraceratherium-sized (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraceratherium).
  • the answer that provides a reasonable explanation for the most advanced building materials is the best answer, even if that answer is "build tipis out of bone and leather".
  • for ease of answering the important bulk of the bodies are of similar in consistency as pigs and cows.
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    $\begingroup$ I think the answer to this question will depend on what "creatures of fantasy and nightmare" are made of. If all the creatures of fantasy and nightmare are buffalo this would be easy to answer. But my fantasies and nightmares sometimes have creatures other than buffalo. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Aug 21 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Willk the nightmarish creatures would consist out of a large variety of things, but chief among them is "regular" meat, bone, sinew, fat, brain tissue etc. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Aug 22 at 8:08
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Bone Cement

Bones could be heated in a kiln, burning off the organics and the phosphorus to produce calcium oxide: lime. If there are enough bodies, and cement is in short supply, lime could be used for cement-making.

Commercially, the base of regular concrete is Portland cement, which is calcium oxide produced from kilning limestone (calcium carbonate) and other minerals. The heat decomposes the calcium carbonate into lime (calcium oxide), which is the workhorse of cement.

To my knowledge, apart from the calcium, almost all of the components of bone (phosphorus compounds, proteins, etc.) should break down into volatile compounds when heated under air, and leave in the kiln's exhaust. (It might be necessary to heat the kilned bone powder with carbon to help reduce and remove things like phosphates and phosphorus oxides, and then heat it again in air to decarbonize any lime that carbonized.)

The lime can be mixed with, for example, clay and sand (the concrete people call these minerals pozzolans), and then water, to produce cement. This can be mixed with aggregate to make concrete. The cement in the concrete sets as the lime hydrates, crystallizes, and reacts with the silicate compounds in the added minerals, and the result is an impressively strong material that steadily grows stronger over the course of months or years.

It's also possible to "slake" the lime (combine it with water) to produce calcium hydroxide (slaked lime). Combined with clay and minerals, this produces non-hydraulic cement. Rather than setting through hydration, this kind of cement hardens as it absorbs carbon dioxide from the air, which converts the calcium hydroxide into calcium carbonate.

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Edit: Thank you to all of the people in the comments for correcting the flaws of lack of research.

There are a few obvious uses at first glance:

  • Bones: Bones can be used as structural supports. They're some 50% mineral and 50% protein, meaning that they are very tough but also stiff. These can be used(as far as I'm aware) to support almost entire houses. There is the widely quoted scripture that bone is stronger than steel, but you need to consider that a bar of steel the same size is actually slightly stronger than bone, due to being some 2/3 times as dense. However, this makes the steel far heavier, meaning that a bone house could hold itself up easier than steel. A foundation can be made out of very large bones and concrete, and you can mostly handwave away the problem with moisture in the ground. I have no idea how to make a subfloor so I guess one-story houses only. Roofs are a bit easier as they don't really need to support weight, so you can just use screws to hold bones together. Bone can also be shaped into nails, screws, metal attachments, all the "extras" needed for building except maybe glue, which I'll talk about below. Edit: Additionally, bones can be heated in a kiln to burn away the organics, forming lime. Lime is used in a lot of building applications, mostly soil stabilization, but most notably, it is used as the main ingredient in concrete. Add some gravel, water, and clay to make concrete, which will allow you to make foundations and support buildings much better.
  • Skin: Basically this is just leather. Just look up all the ways to use leather. Boom! Complete list.
  • Blood: This one requires some scientific skill and some equipment. Blood is made up of many, many components. Most aren't useful(for building, that is) and so I'll ignore them. What I want to focus on right now are two components: fibrinogen and thrombin. These two components are the materials that are used in creating scar tissue, fibrinogen being the active component and thrombin being the activating ingredient. You can also make glue with these. It's called fibrin glue and is used by surgeons to seal all sorts of stuff. You can use this glue to hold together things that don't need to support that much weight(I'm not sure how strong this glue is, and as such not sure if it would support subfloors), such as tables, chairs, and roofs. One of the downsides is that this stuff requires some scientific knowledge, and a bit of equipment, as well as a requirement of, you know, working power. Add that with the rather suspect capability of fibrin glue(it's only been used for temporary scabs to be replaced later), and the impact is rather limited.
  • Others: Spider silk, although widely lauded for holding a tensile strength far higher than steel, is actually not very useful for building. It's applications mainly are clothing and other items that require cloth or really, the high absorption potential spider silk provides. I'm not sure of any other obvious choices I could give you.

If this best answered your question consider accepting it(after 24 hours, of course).

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  • $\begingroup$ The bones would come out of a dead body and no longer regenerate. The bone will start losing its elastic properties and become brittler over time. Not saying they can't be used as building material but that it doesn't hold all properties you attribute to it. Fibrin glue is basically a scab, and I've only seen uses for within the body where its purpose is to be replaced by bodily tissues as it repairs itself. That does not seem like an overly useful trait, however much I would have liked a glue component as building material. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Aug 22 at 8:45
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    $\begingroup$ Bones could be heated in a kiln, burning off the organics and the phosphorus to produce calcium oxide: hydraulic lime. If there are enough bodies, and cement is in short supply, hydraulic lime would be very useful to have. $\endgroup$ Aug 22 at 15:56
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    $\begingroup$ @hobosullivan - the bone lime idea was going to be my contribution but you got there first. Would you explain to the people of the stack how one would make concrete using bone and teeth? You have an upvote in advance from me. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Aug 22 at 16:07
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    $\begingroup$ Commercially, the base of regular concrete is lime (calcium oxide), which is the workhorse of cement. To my knowledge, apart from the calcium, almost all of the components of bone (phosphorus compounds, proteins, etc.) should decompose in a kiln under air. (It might be necessary to heat the bone powder with carbon to help reduce and remove things like phosphates, and then heat it again in air to decarbonize any lime that carbonized.) The lime can be mixed with, for example, clay and sand, and then water. It sets as the lime hydrates, crystallizes, and reacts with the added minerals. $\endgroup$ Aug 22 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ @hobosullivan - excellent! Now paste that as an answer below ("Your Answer") and get your upvotes. That is how it works on the stack. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Aug 23 at 0:04

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