Dubai-based architect duo is looking to break from conventional building practices with an alternative cement conceived in the salt flats of the UAE and made using a problematic waste material.

Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto, principal architects at waiwai, enlisted the scientific knowhow of universities in the UAE and Japan to create a cement made using brine generated by the UAE’s desalination plants, which remove salt from seawater.They were inspired by the UAE’s mineral-rich sabkha — salt flats that are part of the country’s wetlands. “It a huge area … that’s often overlooked,” Al Awar told CNN.

Sabkha have been used in architecture before: centuries ago, blocks were hewn from salt flats and used to build Siwa, a medieval town in Egypt close to the Libyan border. But rather than mine the delicate sabkha ecosystem, Al Awar and Teramoto turned to waste brine, which contains many of the same minerals.