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< prev - next > Construction Clay bricks KnO 100102_Sustainable small scale brick production (Printable PDF)
The construction sector uses up
the earth's resources and con-
tributes to its pollution. This is an
increasing concern. Whilst other
components of construction, such
as transport or building itself, also
play a role, it is generally agreed
that the production of building
materials is the main culprit.
Materials production, for instance,
requires around 75% of the energy
used in construction. In India, it is
estimated that the brick industry
produces 22% of the CO2
emissions by the construction
sector and requires around 27% of
the energy used in building
materials production. This is
because the small and medium
scale sectors are predominant in
the South and are generally more
polluting than modern large-scale
Figure 1: Boiler waste is sieved and used as a fuel for
firing brick clamp kilns at Kurewasekwa Cooperative in
Epworth, Harare. Photo: Practical Action / T. Schilderman
One possible strategy towards more sustainable construction is to promote the use of
alternative, low-energy or renewable materials, such as earth or bamboo. The production of
simple earth blocks only requires around one thousandth of the energy needed to fire bricks.
Even when earth is stabilized with cement it is no more than a sixth per kg of material, and
usually less. Where possible, Practical Action takes this on board in its housing projects.
A combination of factors, though, including urbanization, attitudes and inappropriate building
standards are generating a rise in demand for conventional materials such as steel, bricks and
cement, which do have a substantial negative environmental impact. This trend is hard to
reverse and, in Practical Action's opinion, it is therefore equally necessary to adopt a second
strategy, aimed at mitigating this impact. That is the focus of this paper.
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