SWITCH Africa Green is a programme developed and funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in partnership with European Union delegations in participating countries.
Since 2014, SWITCH Africa Green has been supporting African countries in their transition towards sustainable development, supporting policymakers, business to make the switch to sustainable consumption and production practices that also generate growth, create decent jobs and reduce poverty.
The CBA’s specific sub-project — Promoting Inclusive Sustainable Practices in the South African Clay Brick Sector — was initiated by the CBA in 2018.
This sustainability strategy is leading to cost-effective, fuel-efficient, resource-efficient production reducing damage to human health and the environment. The Switch Africa green project aims to support, promote, realize and stimulate informal brick making sustainable consumption and production.
Why would the European Union support South African initiatives in sustainability?
South Africa is the largest CO2 emitter in Africa and the 12th largest in the world, primarily due to the county’s coal-fired power stations. This means that reductions in the use of electricity or coal can have a tangible impact on global fossil fuel emissions. The South African public and private sectors have shown they are committed to meeting targets to reduce carbon emissions.
Why was the clay brick industry selected to play a role in the programme?
I believe there are three essential elements that will lead to the success of our initiatives.
- Home owners are keen to reduce electricity bills. Therefore they are open to learning how the right construction materials can lead to improved thermal comfort while achieving electricity savings.
- The clay brick sector is well regulated in terms of environmental and air quality. There are only about 120 large producers, so improvements in a small number of companies will make a significant effect.
- Finally, the industry is fortunate to have strong, well-organised industry research body – The Clay Brick Association of Southern Africa. It is therefore easy to undertake quality research and distribute findings and new technologies.
Over the last 5 years, the CBA’s Energy Efficient Clay Brick Programme has resulted in a 10-15% reduction in the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions. SAG financial support will allow us to drive further industry transformation.
How can clay brick production become more sustainable?
Clay bricks are ceramic products – bricks are filed in a kiln at high temperatures. The use of coal in brick-making results in carbon emissions and pollutants like SO2 and nitrous oxides. In countries with clean electricity, the logical transformation is to electricity rather than coal as a firing fuel. Switching brick-makers to energy-efficient technologies will reduce South Africa’s total CO2 emissions and improve air quality.
One of our knowledge-based project is a SAG-funded industry portal. This will allow CBA members to measure their sustainability performance, and then compare against industry benchmarks. Aggregated data over time will help brick manufacturers make informed decisions about future capital improvements, which will continue to boost the sustainability of the industry.
Over the past 5 years, the CBA has published several research studies that add to the technology knowledgebase for the industry both nationally and internationally including South Africa’s first industry-wide Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). All publications are distributed through the CBA to its members and other brick-makers. The lessons learned in South Africa are being shared in Europe, the UK and USA and Australia.
Was the SAG sustainability initiative limited to these few large producers?
The CBA is also undertaking education initiatives aimed at the informal sector – artisanal brick-makers who mould bricks by hand, using firing methods that are often highly polluting and deplete local resources. The CBA is working with local government and champions in the informal settlements to share practical ways to reduce coal and water consumption, air pollution and waste.
Was the SAG sustainability initiative limited to the production phase?
The CBA is committed to improve sustainability not only in production, but also in the construction of “green buildings” that ensure a reduced carbon footprint across the long lifespan of the building.
Operational energy use is an expensive, long-term cost for the property owner and particular crucial in designing affordable housing. The CBA is working with national authorities to improve building standards with regard to thermal performance.
Where can home owners and construction professionals find out more about energy-efficient design and materials?
The CBA’s research aids architects and engineers to maximise thermal comfort and energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings. We organise free educational sessions in conjunction with academic institutions and industry bodies like the Institute of Architects – please see our website for upcoming events.
To facilitate energy efficient building design and construction, our technical manuals and sustainability reports are available free from www.claybrick.org.