How concrete blocks can be a green alternative to bricks

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The spectacular 2,500 square-foot duplex in the tri-state area at the heart of Dhaka city boasts a magnificent facade of curving glass, steel and stone -- one may call this and many such similar houses or apartment flats their dream homes.

However, what most observers do not realize is that the house has been constructed with approximately 20,000 bricks. This means, thick black smoke from the country’s 7,000 brick kilns polluted the air with particulate matter, carbon dioxide (CO2) and other harmful gasses in order to build these houses. Since the dawn of civilization, bricks have played a crucial role in terms of building infrastructures and are a major catalyst for economic progress. While bricks have long been the key building material across the world, in Bangladesh it has also been the primary source of black carbon emission.

According to a study conducted by researchers from Stanford University, US, and International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B), brick kilns are responsible for 17% of the country’s annual carbon dioxide emissions.

Brick kilns are highly energy-intensive and the main source of environmental pollution, producing significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and suspended particulate matter (SPM).

In this regard, the government launched numerous initiatives to regulate the brick industry. For example, the government has launched a study to manually map and verify the locations of brick kilns throughout the country.

It has also carried out programs to demolish about 700 traditional brick kilns, many of which have been running illegally and polluting the environment.

The government has decided to ban the use of traditional bricks in the next three years in phases because of the environmental hazards brick kilns cause. People are now looking for eco-friendly construction materials.

Concrete block-manufacturing industry has been booming in Bangladesh, seizing the bulk of the Tk9,000 crore brick market, as the new-generation building blocks are eco-friendly and much more affordable. Moreover, by 2025, 100% use of concrete blocks will be ensured for building government installations.

Once this happens, the use of traditional bricks will automatically be reduced drastically. But what are concrete blocks and how can they help curb the environmental hazards brought by brick kilns?

Concrete blocks are lightweight and provide thermal insulation, protecting interiors from noise pollution by absorbing sound better. It also gives added protection against fire and water while the construction is more systematic, faster and stronger compared to traditional bricks.

Individual units of concrete blocks can be customized into larger sizes and different shapes. Most importantly, it is completely environment-friendly and this is why the demand for these blocks is on the rise.

Several companies in Bangladesh are offering concrete blocks. Mir Concrete Block, one of the concerns of Mir Group of Companies, is leading the market, providing end-to-end services to reinforce construction standards through durability and eco-friendliness.

With an aim to improve the overall construction process of the country, they have been introducing newer technologies in this field to foster a sustainable construction industry. The government has been supporting companies with many incentives like easy loans, technical support and many more to encourage local manufacturers to shift to these green concrete blocks.

Banning traditional brick construction and embracing concrete blocks can help the country achieve its SDG goals in the protection of the earth’s environment and climate. Utilizing new construction technologies and shifting to eco-friendly materials will be the ultimate key to a sustainable construction sector.

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