We asked the experts at the Clay Brick Association about eco-friendly building materials

Eco-friendly clay bricks contain no pollutants or allergens and are resistant to ants, borers and termites.

What would you like our readers to know if they’re considering using eco-friendly or sustainable building materials for their homes?

Electricity is an ever-increasing expense for householders. The right choice of construction materials can contribute significantly to lower monthly operating and maintenance costs.

In South Africa, winter temperatures in the Highveld approach zero at night. Summer days are truly blistering, with temperatures as high as 40°C at midday. The density of clay brick gives it the ability to absorb heat during the day and release it at night, thus reducing the need for artificial heating in winter and cooling in summer. Unlike cement blocks and bricks, there is no ‘hotbox/icebox’ effect! “The Clay Brick Association of Southern Africa (CBA) educates construction professionals and property owners on building energy-efficient structures,” explains Mariana Lamont, Executive Director of the CBA. “Our technical manuals and guides are available free online from our website.”

What are the pros and cons of choosing eco-friendly building materials?

The ‘green premium’ during construction is considered to be around 5%; however, many sustainable design principles – like the use of shade or putting a cavity in a wall – cost nothing at all. Walling materials are a fraction of the total cost of building a house. A 5% difference is recovered from a few months of electricity savings. “Potential energy savings of 30% were found for residential buildings with clay brick walls rather than cement brick,” says Lamont. “The savings for an insulated cavity wall rose to 70%.” Eco-friendly clay bricks contain no pollutants or allergens and are resistant to ants, borers and termites. They are also recyclable or reusable, and there is a thriving market for recycled bricks for paths and hard landscaping. Competitively priced, accredited brick suppliers can be found in every region, to provide consistent quality stock-in-hand and short transport distances that reduce your carbon footprint. The website www.claybrick.org has an interactive map that allows you to identify contact and product information for suppliers near your construction project.

What are some of the most exciting innovations in eco-friendly/sustainable building materials right now and why?

Clay brick masonry is eco-friendly to the core. Literally. Formed from clay and shale, bricks are proven to be in a class of their own when it comes to low carbon emissions, reduced energy costs and affordable buildings. Although ceramic bricks are one of the first manmade building materials, the past 15 years has seen massive changes in production technology, particularly in South Africa. Traditional kilns are being replaced by fuel-efficient, water-wise systems that improve product consistency and quality. The CBA is driving the industry’s sustainability initiatives, particularly around the critical topics of environmental protection, air quality and inclusivity. Over the last seven years, the CBA’s Energy-Efficient Clay Brick Programme has resulted in at least a 20% reduction in the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions.

If our readers had to choose one area of the home to focus on for eco-friendly builds, what would you suggest and why?

Property developers choose materials and methods that reduce short-term construction costs and speed, and repeatable house designs. It is up to the property owner to ensure that the right long-term decisions are made. By demanding that developers and architects learn to design and build for sustainability, owners don’t need to retrofit items like insulation after construction. “Face-brick has a reputation for preserving future investment value,” reports Mariana Lamont. “Once laid, face-brick withstands rain, hail, floods and intense heat – remaining beautiful indefinitely without maintenance. This not only save time and costs, but it also translates into a reduction of about 6kg of CO2 emissions for every square meter of exposed brick wall.

“We are proud to be in an industry at the forefront of sustainable construction materials and methods,” Lamont concludes.

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