Imagine working in an office that uses sunlight instead of artificial lights for illumination and that has in place central air conditioning instead of the split or window air conditioners.
In an increasing revolt against over-urbanization, companies are opting for eco-friendly options.
The concept of environment-friendly buildings, or green buildings as they are popularly known, is catching on in Bangladesh. While the green building movement has been around globally since the 1970s, it has picked up momentum in Bangladesh only in the last couple of years.
Inspired by the ensuing demand and an urge to protect the environment, business of eco-friendly building materials, especially bricks have also increased manifold in the past couple of years.
Researchers in Bangladesh have also started conceptualizing and developing new bricks to mitigate the environmental damage caused by brick manufacturing.
New eco-friendly bricks
The country produces 25 billion bricks every year. According to Mohammad Abu Sadeque, head of the Housing and Building Research Institute (HBRI), meeting this demand requires excavating 60 million tonnes of topsoil, causing dust pollution and degrading the ground.
Brick kilns also consume 5 million tonnes of coal and 3 million tonnes of wood annually, emitting in the process 15 million tonnes of carbon into the air, Sadeque said.
His institute, which is part of the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, has spent three years developing a range of alternative, environmentally friendly building materials for walls, floors and roofing.
Experts say the new materials will reduce environmental pollution and cut construction costs, while making buildings more earthquake-resistant.
The products include bricks made of a compressed composite material consisting of river mud and cement. The bricks do not require firing in a kiln, but simply harden in the sun.
The new bricks are also lighter than traditional ones, making them easier and cheaper to transport.
Dredging riverbeds for the clay to produce the new type of bricks will help preserve topsoil, Sadeque said.
Reduced cost of
A study by HBRI says the cost of building construction could be brought down by 25 per cent through the use of eco-friendly materials like hollow blocks instead of traditional bricks.
The study titled ’The cost-benefit analysis of using hollow block in modern building’ was conducted by the HBRI in last year.
Akhter Hossain Sarkar, a HBRI senior research officer, said, sound and heat protection capacity of the blocks were higher than the traditional bricks. Light in weight, and the salinity and humidity resistant nature of the block ensures longevity.
He said that the cost of building construction could be brought down 25 per cent by using these hollow blocks instead of traditional bricks.
“Each piece of hollow block costs Tk 30-Tk 35. A piece of hollow block is 4.5 times bigger than a traditional brick. So it will reduce the construction cost,” he said.
A number of local builders have already started using blocks for building construction. As many as 20 block factories have already been set up. Concord, one of the top real estate companies, is at the forefront in using hollow blocks since 1998.
Concord general manager Shamir Uddin Ahmed said, “Concord uses hollow block in all the buildings which we build. So far, such blocks have been in 500 buildings of Concord.”
A factory named Conpack has been set up in Ashulia. Initially, cost for blocks was comparatively higher than bricks but the situation has changed now, he said.
Cost for a piece of block is Tk 35, while the cost of same quantity of bricks is Tk10-Tk15 higher than the blocks. Besides, it also saves other ingredients like cement and sand, which are required for wall plastering. Traditional bricks, however, are still being used in the construction of most buildings mainly due to lack of awareness and knowledge among people.
Bangladesh Brick Manufacturer Owners Association president Mizanur Rahman Babul said they were aware of the use of blocks instead of traditional bricks.
“But the low demand of block is still a big problem as majority of the people use bricks for building construction. Block is yet to be used in government’s development projects. This is restraining brick manufacturers from starting block production,” he said.
He also informed that they had recently visited such a project in India and were given a machine for making blocks at free of cost. For collecting the required fly ash for a test production, an application was sent to the power ministry through environment ministry.
“We are yet to get any reply from the power ministry even after several months of the application. We could not start production just because of a fly ash crisis,” Mizanur said.
Brick kilns in and around Dhaka are responsible for a big share of the densely populated capital’s air pollution, according to research conducted by Bangladesh’s Department of Environment in association with the Norwegian Institute for Air Research.
Altogether there are more than 1,000 brick kilns in and around the capital, researchers said. The kilns produce nearly 60 per cent of Dhaka’s air pollution, with the rest coming from dust and vehicles, along with other sources, they said.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, said authorities should amend the Brick Production and Brick Kiln Building (Control) Act of 2013 to take into account the pollution, damage to agricultural land and other environmental threats caused by brick production.
Experts hope other government institutions involved in construction will push for wider public use of the new construction materials.
Dr Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, the vice-chancellor of Asia Pacific University, said that a range of national and international companies should be encouraged to produce more environmental-friendly building materials.
Hasan Latifur Rahman, general manager of business development at Building Technology and Ideas Ltd, a property development company, said his company had constructed more than 60 buildings in Dhaka and Chittagong, Bangladesh’s largest industrial city, using environmental-friendly materials with support from HBRI.
“When we make people understand the harmful effects of the soil-burning blocks, they get interested to use these (new) blocks,” he said.