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South Africa benefits from a full appreciation of clay bricks

Beautiful clay brick: 

South Africa benefits from a full appreciation of clay bricks

Clay brick is as intrinsic to humanity as cave paintings, music and language and has been part of the architectural canon for millennia. Approaching design, method and innovation from the point of view of sustainability has generated a new respect for the clay brick, and an appreciation for its timeless qualities. The full cycle of this building material is the key to sustaining the many rewards it has to offer.

Clay brick has a lifetime of 80-100 years, depending on the weather and application. Throughout their use, bricks require significantly little maintenance, which decreases the total embodied energy required during their life cycle. Its thermal properties are equally enduring and, when embedded in a building’s architecture design, can massively reduce its functional energy consumption.

The term ‘cradle-to-grave’ is an approach for defining the boundaries of an embodied energy assessment, which involves measuring or estimating the total energy consumed through the entire life cycle of a building or product. In terms of life-cycle costs, whole-life costs consider all those that are associated with the life of a building, from inception to construction, occupation and operation, and disposal.


For the built environment, life cycle refers to a product or building over the course of its whole life, including its design, construction, operation and disposal. Appreciating the full life cycle of a building can ensure that all aspects are properly considered, rather than just a single element, like the cost of construction or the operational CO2 emissions.

A thermal performance study carried out in conjunction with this LCA found that residential buildings constructed with clay-brick walls have the lowest heating and cooling requirements compared to other commonly employed walling systems in South Africa. In our temperate climate zone, residential buildings built with 220mm solid brick walls can potentially save 30% relative to those built with 150mm hollow concrete blocks, while savings of 70% were found if walls were built with insulated cavity brick walls. Even higher savings are evident in the hotter regions of South Africa.


The Clay Brick Association of South Africa (CBA) continues its globally recognised work in ensuring we get the best out of this essential human building material. It supports the best practices in ensuring access to appropriate full life-cycle assessment of our clay bricks: who builds them, how we build them, how we use them and develop them. The CBA has several initiatives which support ‘micro-enterprises’: local, informal brick-making operations that rely on traditional, labour-intensive practices to harvest and fire bricks. These methods serve as a cost/energy-effective method of reducing the environmental impact of brick production.

Follow the link below to 56 Leading Architecture + Design AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2022



Economical & Practical

energy savings

Energy Efficient & Sustainable


Desirable & Stylish