April 22, 2024

Architectural Concepts Guide

Elevating Home Design Standards

How To Make Better Bricks For Better Homes In Nepal

4 min read

Engineers and entrepreneurs in Nepal are using a different kind of brick to rebuild the country using a process that produces less carbon and other air pollution.

According to World Health Organisation statistics, outdoor air pollution (including pollution from brick kilns) is estimated to have caused 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide in 2019, with 89% of those premature deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries.

Kajal Pradhan Banepali, Civil Engineer & Impact Officer, at social enterprise Build up Nepal explains that a technology called “compressed stabilized earth bricks” has a proven record for its strength and also produces less air pollution than conventional brick kilns.

“More people are starting to seek an alternative to fired bricks,they’re starting to understand the benefits of our eco-bricks for their specific context, living in a disaster prone country or a rural area, where the cost of building a safe home can be high,” she says, adding that this technology cuts construction costs by up to 25 percent.

“Local people from a rural community set up a CSEB-producing enterprise and we help them with quality control, construction supervision, guidance and overall business strategies,” she says, “The biggest opportunity of the technology is its sustainability: it is produced using local materials by local entrepreneurs and brick-makers.”

Ashish Maharjan, a research and development engineer at Build up Nepal, says that the aim is to reducing the current cement content from 10 percent to 5 percent.

“A successful reduction holds the promise of significant environmental and economic benefits,” he says, “As our understanding deepens and technology evolves, we anticipate further breakthroughs contributing to the development of more eco-friendly construction materials, which we hope will transform the sector.

Build up Nepal has been recognized by MIT Solve in their climate adaptation and low-carbon housing challenge category.

Engineering dreams in Kathmandu, Nepal

Banepali grew up in and around the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu and her journey in civil engineering began with an early fascination for architecture and designs.

“Ever since I started visiting my uncle’s construction site when I was around 8 years-old, my interest in building designs and construction grew stronger when I witnessed an architect sketching the exterior of the building,” she says, adding that she would go on to complete a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree focused on engineering management.

“I began to understand how architecture and engineering were linked to societal issues,” she says, “As my career progressed I eventually took on a leadership role at Build up Nepal, overseeing the monitoring, evaluation, accountability, and learning of our work on climate-friendly, safe and low-cost construction.”

Banepali explains that the entrepreneurship model is effective in building a resilient community, by creating employment and opportunities for those of different gender, race and caste to collaborate.

“With advancements in infrastructure technology, we can really start promoting a safer, more affordable alternative that also can green the construction sector – for a more sustainable future for us here in the Global South,” she says.

Indra Dev Chaurasiya, a civil engineer and project manager at Build up Nepal explains that climate change, driven by carbon emissions, contributes to natural disasters and destruction of homes in Nepal.

“Embracing CSEB technology offers a dual solution: tackling environmental concerns while providing affordable and disaster resilient housing,” he says, “Moreover, it addresses broader societal issues such as women’s empowerment and unemployment by creating job opportunities for women and our youth.”

Myanmar’s Bamboo Breakthrough

Elsewhere in Asia, engineers and architects are now using of bamboo construction know-how from prefabricated housing in Myanmar to build a much large structure in Madagascar.

Raphaël Ascoli, founder of Yangon-based architecture design studio Blue Temple explains that he moved to Myanmar seven years ago to specialize in small-diameter bamboo construction and scaling-up the production of prefabricated bamboo low-cost housing units for internally displaced people (IDP) and informal settlements.

“Small diameter bamboo is abundant on the local market; this species was never used in construction because of its slenderness, but bundled in large groups, it can become a strong structural element,” he says.

Ascoli explained that after having experimented with this technique for a couple of years, his team was building houses for the price of a smartphone, about $1000.

“Today we have built over 14 housing units in IDP camps and informal settlements such as an orphanage, a preschool, a community center, and houses,” he says, adding that bamboo can change the carbon footprint of the construction industry.

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