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ClayBrick Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Research

On Friday 1st February 2013, and the University of Pretoria made history through the signing of the agreement to pursue the industry 'Life Cycle Assessment for Clay Brick Walling in South Africa'.

This is the first and largest research project of its kind in South Africa in terms of size, cost, duration and magnitude. It is scheduled to be published as internationally recognised academic research.

It will benchmark Clay Brick as a 'green' building material in the construction sector, allowing architects and property owners to calculate the overall environmental impacts of a Clay Brick building, from initial production to overall operation, in terms of energy usage, water consumption, resultant greenhouse gas emissions and recyclability, among others. The thermal performance of Clay Brick walling structures will also be compared to those built from other methods, like the LSFB walling systems.

The study is the culmination of almost a year of planning and preparation for the CBA Technical Team and Professor Karel Bakker, Dean of the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Pretoria, as well as Project Coordinator, Professor Piet Vosloo and Research Assistant, Greg Rice from the same department. 

Researching long term sustainability

With the decisions of building material specifiers being more and more influenced by the societal need for long term sustainability, ultimately, the aim is to help the marketing of Clay Brick products based on much needed credible research. It will allow the Clay Brick industry to be absolutely certain of our facts when we talk about our Clay Brick products, particularly in a green building context, and bypass any potential of being labelled as greenwashing.

This research project, which will be modelled against the Energetics Australian LCA study, due to our similar climatic zones and operational conditions, and is intended to be rolled out in two parts, i.e. a detailed Life Cycle Assessment of the Clay Brick Industry in South Africa (in accordance with ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 series of standards), with particular reference to the following Life Cycle stages:

  • Clay extraction
  • Brick manufacture
  • Transport to site
  • Construction on site, including the production of mortar
  • Operational life of the building, including energy usage and other maintenance considerations
  • Demolition and disposal
  • Reuse and recycling of Clay Brick products

Whereas the overall aim of the research is to perform a Life Cycle Assessment on Clay Brick walling in South Africa, the specific objective of the first part will be to determine the environmental impacts the Clay Brick industry creates.

Professor Piet Vosloo and his research assistant, Greg Rice, have put together a rather lengthy and comprehensive questionnaire for CBA members to complete, with emphasis on the production and operations of your respective brick plants. We ask members to put the time aside and give this your immediate and urgent attention.

All survey results will be treated with utmost confidence. In exchange for your support, we will reveal the findings of this research with suggestions, particularly with relevance to your company. This research is an extremely valuable marketing tool, so, I urge you, take advantage of this golden opportunity.

Phase 1

The questionnaire supports the first part of the research that is intended to determine the environmental impacts the Clay Brick industry creates, in terms of :

  • Energy use
  • Greenhouse gas emissions amongst airborne pollutants
  • Water pollutants
  • Water use
  • Environmental degradation

This first phase will also investigate current practices surrounding the reuse and recycling of Clay Bricks, and suggestions will be made regarding the value of reusing and recycling masonry units.

Phase 2

As part of the second phase, a thermal modelling study of Clay Brick will be undertaken, as well as other construction material structures, so as to compare their associated thermal performance. The designs for comparison will comprise of a 40m² house, a 130m² house, as well as a 130m² house and a small office design of ± 2000m². The wall constructions to be compared include:

  • Double brick cavity wall (un-insulated)
  • Insulated double brick
  • Light steel frame
  • 140mm hollow concrete block
  • Timber frame cladded with fibre board

Each of these construction methods will be analysed for each of the three designs, as well as across the six different climatic zones in South Africa, as per SANS 10400XA. Thermal modelling and designs will be based on current SANS 10400XA and SANS 204 building standards.

Please give us your support and help us benchmark Clay Brick as the most sustainable building material through this significant 'Life Cycle Assessment for Clay Brick Walling in South Africa!'


Economical & Practical

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Energy Efficient & Sustainable


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