Construction companies shun eco-friendly unbaked bricks

VietNamNet Bridge – Despite its environmental advantages, non-baked bricks have yet to gain a market in Viet Nam, chairman of the Viet Nam Association for Building Materials Tran Van Huynh says.

Workers at a construction company in Phu Tho Province produce concrete blocks. Non-baked environmental friendly bricks are failing to find a foothold in the domestic construction market due to their higher cost compared to traditionally baked clay bricks. (Photo: VNS)
"Non-baked bricks account for 55-60 per cent of building materials used in China and the UK while in Viet Nam, the figure is only 8-8.5 per cent," Huynh said.

Made from industrial waste such as ash and cinder from thermal power stations and red mud from bauxite factories, non-baked bricks help save natural resources, especially agricultural land and coal, and reduce industrial waste treatment costs.

The Ministry of Construction forecasts that in the next decade the country will need about 41-43 billion bricks a year. This would require some 57-60 million cubic metres of clay and 5.3-5.6 million tonnes of coal.

"A great amount of non-renewable natural resources would be used and both the environment and people's health would be seriously affected," said Huynh.

According to a research by the Association for Building Materials, during the 2015-20 period the country could discharge 50-60 million tonnes of waste which potentially would pollute the environment. However, this waste could be employed in the production of non-baked bricks. Non-baked brick weighs one third the weight of baked brick, so it helps reduce total building weights and thereby reducing costs for the construction of foundations.

Director of the Ministry of Construction's Department of Building Materials Le Van Toi said that demand for building materials in Viet Nam had sharply increased in the last five years.

"Demand has increased by 10-12 per cent every year," he said.

Toi added that China had encouraged the use of non-baked bricks since 2001 by banning clay bricks for new construction sites.

"By using non-baked bricks, we can save about 1,000ha of agricultural land every year and clear hundreds of hectares of rubbish dumps," he said.

Foreign investors are already aware of the benefits of using non-baked bricks, employing them in the construction of the Bitexco Building in HCM City, and Keangnam, Ha Noi Plaza Hotel and Habico Tower buildings in Ha Noi.

Huynh said, "However, two difficulties deter architects and investors in Viet Nam from using non-baked bricks."

Firstly, Vietnamese people have used baked brick for many generations, and non-baked bricks often are larger in size which makes them difficult to transport especially for high-rise construction. Using non-baked bricks also requires higher skilled workers.

Truong Anh Tu, a construction supervisor for the Ha Noi-based Acore 3D company, said that his company never used non-baked bricks because of their high price.

Clay bricks cost VND1,200 (US$0.06) each, but non-baked bricks are sold at VND1,800 ($0.09) per unit.

"Although non-baked bricks are 20 per cent larger, we calculate that clay bricks are cheaper," he added.

Vo Lien Huong, deputy director of the Secoin Company which produces non-baked materials, said that a lack of consumer awareness was the biggest obstacle for his company.

"In most consumer minds, baked bricks are the first choice," she said.

Secondly, the State had failed to draft any policies to encourage investors to use non-baked bricks for their projects.

In April this year, the Prime Minister promulgated Decision 567/QD-TTg which laid out a programme for the development of non-baked building material by 2020.

The decision set the target that by 2012 about 20-25 per cent of building materials would be non-baked varieties, with the figure rising to 30-40 per cent by 2020.

Under the decision, as of next year at least 30 per cent of construction material used in nine-storey or taller buildings would be non-baked bricks.

"I think we should develop preferential policies to encourage investors to use non-baked brick," said Huynh.

Provinces are also considering increasing taxes for using clay to produce brick.

Next year the Association for Building Materials will hold conferences to highlight the advantages of using non-baked bricks to building management offices and investors.

Huong said that as of next year to 2020, Secoin would construct additional non-baked brick manufacturing plants in Ha Noi, HCM City and Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province with capital investment of VND100 billion (US$5 million) a factory.

"If the model is successful, it will be expanded to different cities and provinces across the countries to serve the construction industry," she said.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News