The Life Cycle of a Clay Brick - and why it matters!


An LCA is an internationally and scientifically recognised approach that measures the environmental impact of a product. The building sector has been linked to high CO2 emissions and global climate change, a concern that affects us all. A first step towards improving the sustainability of building materials is to understand the extent and source of the environmental and socio-economic impacts.

In light of this, the CBA commissioned two detailed scientific assessments to understand the environmental impact of clay brick production and use in South Africa. The independent studies were conducted by The University of Pretoria. The CBA also commissioned a social LCA which was conducted by G1 Consulting & Associates and Equispectives Research & Consulting Services.

This brochure provides a high-level overview of these studies and the key take home messages for anyone with an interest in understanding the environmental and socio-economic  impacts of building with clay bricks in South Africa.

Why does an LCA matter?

Understanding a product’s effect on the environment over its entire life span is a considerable undertaking. Leading academics and researchers are grappling with this, and the robust methodology of LCA has developed in response to this challenge.

The Clay Brick LCA uses an internationally and scientifically recognised approach that measures the environmental impact of a product by analysing all the inputs (e.g. raw materials and energy) and outputs (e.g. emissions and waste) that occur as a result of that product being manufactured, transported, assembled, used, maintained, and eventually disposed of.

  • An LCA quantifies the resources consumed and emissions produced over the product’s entire life cycle and then assesses the impact of this on specific environmental aspects such as human health, climate change and damage to ecosystems.
  • A social LCA uses a similar framework to an environmental LCA but assesses how a product affects workers, the community and the consumer in terms of socio-economic factors, such as human rights, working conditions, and health and safety.