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LafargeHolcim expands production of soil-based bricks

28 Nov 19 LafargeHolcim has opened new production facilities in Malawi for its Durabric soil-stabilised bricks, which have been designed as a sustainable and affordable material for housing.

Durabrics are made from a mixture of soil, sand, cement and water; there is no need for firing and so the production saves firewood compared to the traditional burnt clay bricks used in Malawi.

The new plant is part of 14Trees, LafargeHolcim’s joint venture with CDC Group. The aim is to industrialise Durabric production as part of a commitment to provide low-carbon and affordable housing solutions in Africa.

Durabric claimed to be the first soil-stabilised brick to be sold on a mass scale in sub-saharan Africa. 14Trees has also entered other African markets including Kenya and the Ivory Coast.

“Today, less than 10 percent of the population in Africa can afford the cheapest newly built house.” said Miljan Gutovic, LafargeHolcim region head Middle East Africa. “LafargeHolcim, with its unique innovation capabilities, has developed a range of construction solutions to make houses more affordable for the majority while improving the environmental footprint of those buildings. With additional production capacities, we are now able to offer these solutions beyond Malawi and increase our positive contribution further.”

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The most used building material in Malawi and several other countries is burnt clay bricks, which involve heavy consumption of firewood due to the need to fire the clay. The Durabric production process uses a mixture of soil, sand, cement and water without firing. Malawians burn around 850,000t of wood for fuel per year in the process of firing bricks. LafargeHolcim has estimated that entire country would be deforested in a generation at this rate. It says that, for that reason, Durabric provides a viable alternative solution. Durabrics can save 14 trees for each simple house built compared to fired bricks, it said. Durabrics are three times stronger, result in one-fifth of the CO2 emissions, up to 20% cheaper per square meter of wall and are more resistant to heavy rainfall than traditional bricks.

The new plant is located in Blantyre, Malawi’s business hub and second largest city. It complements the Lilongwe based factory. 14Trees also launched two mobile plants that will be able to flexibly serve rural communities. Those mobile plants provide employment for local villagers and cut transport costs.

14Trees has also developed a turnkey house design using Durabric, delivering a one-bedroom house in 12 weeks for less than US$20,000 (£15,600).

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