Expanding our affordable housing solutions

26 November 2019

Concrete may be the world’s most common building material, but in countries like Malawi, it’s bricks, fired in traditional clamp kilns. Malawians burn around 850,000 tons of fuelwood per year in the process of firing bricks. At this rate the entire country will be deforested in a generation and millions of tons of CO2 will be emitted into the atmosphere. There is a solution, and we call it Durabric.

An ‘old innovation’ to save CO2 emissions 

Made with a finely balanced mixture of soil, sand, cement and water, Durabrics do not need to be fired. They are compressed in a mold and cure naturally, making them an evolution of the traditional air-dried brick, which have been in use since 7000 BC. Durabrics are three times stronger than fired bricks. They are up to 20% cheaper per square meter of wall, are more resistant to heavy rainfall and account for just one-fifth of the CO2 emissions.

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Sustainable business is innovative, open and agile

In 2016 we hit the market with our first Durabric plant in Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital. We began by supplying NGO-sponsored buildings. In 2018 we began targeted potential homeowners. By collaborating with financing partners, we have opened the door for families to buy one-bedroom houses for less than USD 20,000 and move into them in twelve weeks. In 2019 we recognized that transport costs limited our reach – especially in a country with a significant rural population. In response we developed a mobile brick plant that can be set up in two weeks and manned by workers from surrounding villages.

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Act locally, think globally

Durabrics are being taken to market by 14 Trees, a joint venture of LafargeHolcim and the CDC, the UK's development finance group. By mid-2019 we had sold more than 2 million Durabrics in total, thus providing shelter for thousands of people while avoiding the emissions of 15,000 tons of CO2. Our model for delivering affordable, sustainable housing has been developed through continuous learning and experimentation. The program has since expanded to Kenya and Ivory Coast, where we aim to achieve even bigger deals. With Smartdiaspora, our reach is now global. People working outside their home country will increasingly be able to support their families with goods and services instead of cash.

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