Green building practices are gaining momentum

Green building practices have gained momentum in Bangladesh as eco-bricks are widely used for all kinds of constructions with the aim of reducing environmental degradation caused by conventional brick kilns.

The Housing and Building Research Institute (HBRI), a wing of the Ministry of Housing and Works, has been trying for decades to promote green building by developing various alternatives to traditional bricks, which are made by firing topsoil with firewood.

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Ismail Hossain, a research fellow at HBRI, said he has developed 30 varieties of eco-bricks that are more economical and lightweight, as well as resistant to earthquakes, fire, saltiness, heat and noise.

These varieties include: Compressed Stabilized Earth Blocks (CSEBs), Interlocking CSEBs, Hollow Concrete Blocks, Thermal Blocks, Aerated Concrete, Ferro-Cement Sandwich Panels, Honeycomb Blocks, Silent Blocks, and Fly Ash Bricks.

Most eco-bricks are made from coarse sand collected from river beds mixed with cement while others require the use of stone dust and fly ash leaving behind the use of topsoil in both case, added Hossain.

Md Shofiqul Islam Dablu, former Chairman of Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik Committee in Nilphamari, said people are now more inclined to use eco-bricks for construction as they have realized the benefits for themselves and the environment.

The government had issued a notification on November 24, 2019, which mandated the complete elimination of the use of traditional bricks in all public construction projects by 2025.

According to the notification, green alternatives were to represent at least 20% of bricks used in fiscal year 2020-21, 30% in fiscal year 2021-22, 60% in fiscal year 2022-23 and ultimately 100%. in 2024-25.

Saiful Islam, Principal Assistant Engineer of the Local Government Engineering Department in Nilphamari, said a number of their projects are currently under development as per the notification.

Hossain, a research fellow at HBRI, went on to say that a good number of private companies have started producing eco-friendly building materials to meet the growing demand.

For example, Concord Group manufactures concrete blocks for sidewalks, walls and roofs while Mir Ceramics produces eco-friendly tiles for floors, walls and stairs.

“Additionally, local powerhouses such as Meghna Group, Advanced Chemical Industries Limited, Rupayan Group and Eastern Group are also engaged in manufacturing sustainable products,” he said.

With the support of HBRI, real estate companies such as Building Technology and Ideas Ltd have already put up many structures using eco-friendly materials in Dhaka and Chattogram.

Netherlands-based Eco Solutions Ltd had set up a plant to produce CSEBs in Haziganj village of Nilphamari sadar upazila in 2020.

The blocks produced by the unit are composed of 70% coarse sand, 10% cement and 20% dry earth which has been compressed inside the plant without using coal or wood.

Abdul Wadud Sarker, a construction engineer at the plant, said they currently have the capacity to produce 1 lakh of concrete blocks per month.

He then added that a local school, a hospital and about 60 farms have been built using their blocks.

Similarly, Bablu Super Bricks Industry Limited in Thakurgaon has been producing eco-friendly bricks using 40% fly ash, 40% sand, 15% cement and 5% pebbles since its establishment a few years ago.

Pavel Rahman, a resident of Sabuj para area in Nilphamari Municipality, said that the total construction cost of his residence has dropped by 30% with the use of CSEBs, as 1,000 of these blocks perform the same work than 1,750 conventional bricks, reducing the use of mortar.

“Plus, I can paint the walls directly without having to apply plaster,” he added.

Zoinal Abedin, a resident of Hazipara area in Thakurgaon Municipality, said living in houses made of eco-friendly materials is more comfortable as they are resistant to both heat and cold.

Sources from HBRI said that in addition to large enterprises, 2,500 small and medium-sized eco-friendly building materials factories have been established across the country on private initiatives.

“We are training 50 masons and other relevant people every month to provide skilled labor for constructing buildings with environmentally friendly materials,” said Ahsan Habib, senior research director at HBRI.

According to Department of Environment (DoE) sources, there are 6,500 to 10,000 traditional brick kilns in the country which produce 22.71 billion bricks per year.

For this, 25 billion cubic feet of topsoil is burned along with 3.5 million tons of coal and 1.9 million tons of wood, emitting 9.8 million tons of greenhouse gases.

Furthermore, the use of land harvested from arable land is a great threat to food production and an obstacle to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, which includes achieving food security and sustainable development. in agriculture, said Abu Bakkar Siddik, deputy director of the Agriculture Extension Department at Nilphamari.

Abdul Hamid, Director General of the DoE, said they are working on a roadmap to reduce environmental pollution caused by brick kilns and the use of eco-blocks in all constructions is an effective measure towards this end.

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