By Sam Stewart Mutabazi
To build using burnt bricks or concrete blocks? Each has its own positives and negatives. Advantages of concrete blocks is that they are neat, build faster, and may not need plastering. Clay bricks are time consuming and take more cement. Burnt bricks in Uganda are likely to keep diminishing as the demand for building materials increase. Besides, in cities and urban areas, the land where clay and soil for making bricks is getting scarce. Areas where soil or clay is excavated remain gaping deep holes. Some of these holes are difficult to cover. Once the soil has been removed, the places are not restored back to useful land. In most cases the land that was excavated becomes less useful. One requires new soil to cover the deep trenches left by brick layers. If someone still needs to utilize their land in future, it’s advisable that they should not use it for brick production. Buying soil to refill the dug-out areas can be costly yet the restoration may not be the same as the land was before.
Using bricks for construction is conducive only when cities are in their formative stages. The same applies to stone quarrying. Stone quarrying and brick laying within cities is highly discouraged. Its leads to serious environmental damage and pollution. In addition, brick making is very time consuming. The process of making bricks from preparing the soil, to laying them and drying them is a long process. Bricks have to be burnt in a kiln using firewood which involves cutting a lot of trees. This makes using bricks not only costly to the user but also economically not viable to the producer. It’s very damaging to the environment in terms of land degradation and deforestation.
As cities grow, the best option would be to introduce better modern means if building. The alternative in cities therefore are concrete blocks. They are easy to make and cheaper in terms of the time to manufacture and even the final cost if a building. In the last ten years, Kampala city has witnessed steady shift from using burnt bricks to concrete blocks. Though it’s not fully embraced at the moment because people are accustomed to traditional burnt bricks, the situation is likely to force them to change accordingly. Currently, concrete blocks are mainly used by the rich people and on big projects. Their manufacturing is also not yet widespread. As more people get used and realize the advantages of using concrete blocks the manufacturing capacity will increase hence increasing their usage and uptake too. In the coming years, we are likely to see the diminishing usage if bricks and adoption of concrete blocks. The price of concrete blocks is also likely to keep going down as the private sector embraces the change and introduces new technology. Currently, the best machines available in Uganda are able to produce about twelve blocks per single production.
The only advantage of clay bricks is that they can easily withstand areas that are water logged compared to concrete blocks. Indeed it’s highly advisable that concrete blocks should never be used in the foundation of the building as they are likely to compromise the quality of the building. Apart from the foundation however, concrete blocks work very well above the foundation and can be long lasting. One of the good attributes of concrete blocks is that they make the work of building more rapid hence time saving.
Constructing the structure of a building using concrete blocks takes a much shorter time compared to using burnt bricks. Furthermore, they also have an added advantage which is that buildings that are constructed using concrete blocks are well aligned compared to the ones of burnt bricks. Blocks especially the ones that are machine made make better buildings in terms of alignment. Since the blocks are well aligned, it means that the cost of finishing is also less compared to that of bricks. The walls of blocks for instance take much less material in terms of plastering. Whereas the walls of bricks are rough and rugged, those of concrete are straight and require less cement and sand. It takes a long time to change culture and attitude. Ugandans have been used to using burnt bricks for ages. Now time has come to adopt new ways to build because of changing circumstances. Resorting to concrete blocks will not require people to be forced. They will force themselves because of cost and enlightenment. Burnt bricks are backward and expensive but not many people knew this. Welcome to the new age.