TN#30 LCA: Environmental impacts of clay bricks in South Africa


Management Summary and consolidation report of the LCA study

“Life Cycle Assessment of clay brick walling in South Africa”

Published: February  2017

Peter Drucker famously quoted, “what gets measured, gets managed”. By examining an activity we are forced to pay attention to it. By producing relevant and accurate measurements we can identify where improvements are possible, and then track progress against the original benchmark.

It was with this intention that the Clay Brick Association of Southern Africa embarked on a 3-year project to complete South Africa’s first industry-wide Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for clay brick products. 

The study analyses the full lifecycle of clay brick:

  • Raw material extraction and clay brick production
  • Construction including transport to site
  • The operational life of the building, with the focus on heating and cooling energy and maintenance.
  • Building end-of-life, disposal, recycling and reuse.
  • Social Life Cycle Assessment within the context of sustainable development

The study was performed using specific production data from 86 out of the 102 clay brick production sites in South Africa which are members of the CBA. It is estimated that this covers about 95% of the South African national production.

The analysis was conducted in accordance with the ISO 14040 and 14044 standards with an external review in order to aim at the highest quality standards. The results were summarized by the University of Pretoria, in an extensive report tailored for environmental experts which describes the detailed methodology, data basis and all the assumptions used in the study.

The LCA was conducted by the University of Pretoria and co-funded by the National Research Foundation.  The successful conclusion of the in-depth research study is a significant achievement for the Energy Efficient Clay Brick Project (EECB), an initiative funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and implemented in South Africa by Swisscontact.