License agreement on innovative cool bricks in Malawi

Building materials
9 September 2020

TNO and Terrastone ltd – a major construction firm in Malawi – signed a license agreement to kick off the production of cold ceramic bricks. TNO developed these strong, red ‘cool bricks’, which can be manufactured without firing. Terrastone will launch this innovative product in Malawi. The cool bricks will decrease deforestation, boost the sustainable brick sector and will create employment for most vulnerable groups.

Innovation is needed to reduce the environmental burden of traditional brick making

Malawi is well-known of her red soil that is very suitable for making bricks. Many informal workers make their business out of this red soil, because it is freely available. Also the wood to fire these bricks is for free. This makes the bricks affordable and they are used to build the typically red colored houses in Malawi, even the most vulnerable people. But this traditional brick making in clamps requiring fire wood causes deforestation and high carbon emissions. Moreover the bricks produced are of poor quality with failures reaching 40%. These low quality bricks require a large amount of additional expensive mortar for building a solid masonry structure. This makes the houses in Malawi more expensive and even less sustainable as in the production in cement also high amounts of carbon emissions are produced.

Market demand of 12.5 billion bricks

The ministries of Housing and Natural Resources recently banned the traditional fired clay bricks to tackle deforestation and carbon emissions. These ministries and the private sector are now seeking alternative technologies. On a small scale local companies are active on sustainable manufacturing of bricks with improved kilns, alternative fuel resources and using alternative materials for making bricks; e.g. concrete or soil stabilized bricks. But more innovations are needed to further develop and cover the market demand of sustainable red bricks and to reduce the environmental impact of brick production in combination with lowering the prices to have a viable alternative for local brick manufacturers and customers. Malawi has a fast growing population (2.75% ) and therefore substantial investments in infrastructure and housing are required. There is a market demand of approximately 120.000 new houses per year. Based on the population growth it can be assumed that the building material market currently requires approx. 6 billion standard bricks annually and will grow up to 12.5 billion standard bricks annually by the year 2043. Thus, high volume, affordable solutions are urgently needed. TNO’s cool bricks cover these needs perfectly.

Cool bricks from TNO

TNO developed the Cold Ceramic Brick or ‘Cool Bricks’. Neither heating nor firing is required in manufacturing these bricks because we combine waste resources with innovative materials and processes. This innovation is developed in the Netherlands and in this project we transfer it to Malawi in order to reach social and economic impact. Tests with Malawian side stream materials have been very successful at the TNO laboratory; the bricks have a high strength and shape stability. Also the results of the technical and economic feasibility study in Malawi are promising. We found Terrastone eager to start a pilot production and recently we signed a joint license agreement to transfer knowledge and launch the cool bricks in Malawi. TNO is delighted to start collaboration with Terrastone and to provide a solid business model for this innovative product to Terrastone. Terrastone will start up the pilot production this year and will launch the cool bricks in the high end market. TNO will pledge the license fees in a Social Brick Fund. With those financial resources, we will develop equipment and a new recipe of the cool bricks suitable for small scale producers. The production of cool bricks will be upscaled so that they become available at an affordable price on a large scale, substantially contributing to affordable and sustainable housing in Malawi.

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