06.07.2017 · Category: Bangladesh SusBuild Bangladesh

Architects of Sustainability

Md. Abul Bashar is one of the 485 masons so far trained by the SWITCH-Asia project in Bangladesh on alternative, environment-friendlier construction materials. (Source: Md. Simon Rahman)

A construction worker by profession, Md. Abul Bashar is a 46-year-old lead mason in Sadar area of Jessore. He is a veteran in his craft since he started this profession when he was merely a 12-year-old boy.

He was selected as one of the participants to the first round of trainings of trainers (ToT) on alternative construction techniques for masons, organised by the EU-funded SWITCH-Asia project Promoting Sustainable Building in Bangladesh.

During the five-day training programme and its practical demonstrations, he came to know about different, environment-friendlier types of bricks. "I liked the hollow-block, it can be a good alternative to fire-bricks for our construction work.", said Md. Abul Bashar.

Since October 2016, the Housing and Building Research Institute (HBRI) and Jagorani Chakra Foundation, partners to the SWITCH-Asia projects, have been arranging similar training events for masons at both Jessore and Savar areas.

Through theoretical and practical trainings, Bangladeshi masons familiarise themselves with bricks that are greener alternatives to the traditional fire bricks. (Source: Jagorani Chakra Foundation)

"The interlocking blocks are quite easy to use and will be suitable for constructing walls. They even look good and the cost seems lower than others bricks. But in case of the compressed stabilised earthbBlocks, their surface should be rough rather than smooth; that will help to increase the structural strength" said Md. Labib Sheikh, one of the trained masons from Savar.

Fellow trainee Md. Salam Sheikh added that "The size of Sand Cement Hollow Block is large and thus it will make our work easier and save our time since less number of bricks will be required to build a wall."

These masons are one of the major technical groups in the construction sector of Bangladesh. Till date, 14 batches of general, three-day training and three batches of ToTs have been organized under the project, training a total of 485 masons. Some of those who attended the extensive ToT went on to co-facilitate some general training sessions for construction workers.

The project is running target group specific training programmes tailored to a wide network of audiences, including university students. (Source: Md. Simon Rahman)

The masons have a key role in the use of construction materials in building design and construction. The project is reaching out to them as they will be helpful for influencing buyers' decisions: often the mason leaders are consulted for buying bricks and other construction materials due to their years of experience in the business.

The masons are also a key actor in the project: once the alternative bricks commercially adopted and used, these trained masons will be required to lead construction works using alternative bricks and also for orienting other general masons on the usage of different alternative bricks.

The SWITCH-Asia project Bangladesh SusBuild is targeting a variety of audience which includes manufacturers to bulk buyers, potential house-builders (institutional and individual), future users (students of architecture and engineering etc.) and government officials from relevant departments (which concerns construction). There are similar events for diploma engineers and civil engineers who are already engaged in the construction sector. The developers are brought into a consultation process through orientation and dialogue with them. Most importantly, the government level decision makers will be engaged in the latter part of the project to adopt alternative bricks in their construction projects which will serve as replicable models.

For the newer, greener bricks to become a viable alternative to traditional construction materials, cost-effectiveness will be a crucial factor. (Source: Md. Simon Rahman)

"The new bricks should be offered at a low price compared to the traditional bricks to attract the attention of the users. It has taken ages for the fire-bricks to earn the credibility as sustainable construction materials amongst the users; now if the alternative bricks have to replace them, it will need a lot of model constructions made by using alternative bricks so that the alternative bricks can also earn their share of credibility" said Abul Bashar after receiving the project's training.

Intensive research is being carried out by HBRI to determine the cost benefit analysis for different alternative brick types. Concurrently, the project is conducting a market research to do a life cycle assessment for these alternative bricks. Findings from these interventions will be key to determine the selling factor for these bricks as both producers and buyers will find out how cost-effective these bricks are for production and usage.

Written by: Mohammad Simon Rahman / SWITCH-Asia project
Edited by: Silvia Sartori / SWITCH-Asia Network Facility