Is Sustainability Affordable?

The Clay Brick Association of Southern Africa (CBA) is driving the industry’s sustainability initiatives.
In cities like Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria, energy savings of between 50-70% are possible if insulated cavity clay brick walls are built rather than cement blocks. Pictured is the Nelson Mandela University Business School Building, which makes extensive use of clay brick.

Sustainability is about more than being eco-friendly.  It is the expectation that companies, governments and individuals are socially and environmentally aware, accountable and responsible for the impact they have, and can have, on communities.

The Clay Brick Association of Southern Africa (CBA) is driving the industry’s sustainability initiatives, particularly around the critical topics of environmental protection, air quality and inclusivity. Over the last 5 years, the CBA’s Energy-Efficient Clay Brick Programme has resulted in at least a 15% reduction in the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions. 

In 2018, the CBA was commissioned to execute a 3-year project co-sponsored by the European Union (EU) under the SWITCH Africa Green programme.

“Our project – Promoting Inclusive Sustainable Practices in the South African Clay Brick Sector – includes benchmarks and research to reduce fossil fuel use in production,” explains Mariana Lamont. 

“We also educate construction professionals and property owners on what is needed to build energy-efficient structures. Access to accurate data makes it easier for architects to design ‘green’ buildings that are naturally energy-efficient.”

Reducing electricity use

South Africa’s coal-burning power stations are not only expensive and unreliable, they also produce high carbon emissions that make South Africa the 14th largest polluter in the world. Reducing electricity saves the homeowner money, but it also saves the planet.

“As the industry watchdog, the CBA lobbies for energy-efficient building standards like the new 10400-XA regulations that require cavity walling in many areas of South Africa,” informs Nico Mienie, Technical Director of the CBA.

“A study completed in 2019 by University of Pretoria undertook an assessment of the  thermal performance in several types of walling common in South Africa,” he says.

“It confirmed that residential buildings constructed with insulated clay brick cavity walls have low heating and cooling requirements compared with other commonly employed walling materials in South Africa. Substantial savings can be realised in almost every energy zone.”

Sustainable economic growth

The clay brick sector plays a role in the country’s economic sustainability by providing around 20 000 direct jobs.

No matter where a construction site is located there will be trained, local bricklayers to complete the project. It is estimated that over 200,000 workers are directly employed across the building industry as brick makers, brick layers and plasterers. 

The density of clay bricks makes them energy-efficient and safe as a construction material. But that also makes them expensive to transport (with resultant CO2 emissions during this brief phase of its long working life).  A tip: contractors and home owners will usually get the best price close to the point of manufacture. 

Competitively-priced, accredited brick suppliers can be found in every region, to provide consistent quality stock-in-hand and short transport distances.

The website www.claybrick.org has an interactive map that allows you to identify contact and product information for suppliers near your construction project. Is sustainability affordable? Can we really afford to NOT plan for the future?

Visit the official COVID-19 government website to stay informed: sacoronavirus.co.za