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Energy-smart bricks as a substitute for clay

RMIT University engineers have collaborated with Visy to make bricks with a minimum of 15 per cent waste glass and 20 per cent combusted solid waste (ash), as substitutes for clay.

Test results indicate that using these bricks in the construction of a single-storey building could reduce household energy bills by up to 5 per cent compared to regular bricks, due to improved insulation.

Team leader associate professor Dilan Robert said about 1.4 trillion bricks were used in construction projects globally every year.

“Business-as-usual brick production produces harmful emissions – including carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and chlorine – and puts a serious strain on our natural resources, particularly clay,” said Robert.

Replacing clay with waste materials in the brick production helped reduce the firing temperature by up to 20 per cent compared with standard brick mixtures, offering potential cost savings to manufacturers.

The team’s research showed the new bricks have enhanced energy efficiency through improved thermal performance, and met stringent structural, durability and environmental sustainability standards. The technology has met the key compliance requirement of fired clay bricks set by Standards Australia (AS 3700).

Dr Biplob Pramanik, the RMIT team’s environmental engineer, said the new bricks were safe to use in construction projects.

“Our bricks, manufactured from industry waste, meet state environmental regulations,” said Pramanik.

Paul Andrich, Innovation Project Manager at Visy, said the company was thrilled to find a solution for material that cannot be recycled into food and beverage packaging.

“Diverting this waste into bricks with added insulation, rather than landfill, is another way we are powering the circular economy,” said Andrich.

The research team wants to collaborate with industries to explore applications of waste material in other construction products.

The team’s latest research is published in the international journal Construction and Building Materials.

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