Green material suffers tragic fate

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SaigonTimes English - 33 month(s) ago 3 readings

Green material suffers tragic fate

HCMC – Though considered eco-friendly building material, adobe, or lightweight concrete brick, is suffering a dreadful fate as producers are struggling to find the market for the green material.

Green material suffers tragic fate

By Dinh Dung - The Saigon Times Daily

Guests visit a model house made of lightweight concrete bricks produced by Vinh Duc Building Material Company - Photo: Dinh Dung
HCMC – Though considered eco-friendly building material, adobe, or lightweight concrete brick, is suffering a dreadful fate as producers are struggling to find the market for the green material.

Supply is available

After two years of construction and trial operation, the factory producing aerated autoclaved concrete (AAC) of Tan Ky Nguyen Joint Stock Company launched the first batch of bricks into the market in early 2011. The Long An-based unbaked brick factory worth VND160 billion in investment capital is designed with the annual capacity of 450,000 cubic meters, or 350 million bricks.

However, similar to other adobe producers, Tan Ky Nguyen is facing difficulties with the poor market demand. As such, most of the factories in the industry are now running at only 20-30% of the designed capacity, said Tan Ky Nguyen’s director Phan Hoai Thanh.

Dam Thanh Tung, deputy director of Vuong Hai Joint Stock Company, owner of an AAC plant in Dong Nai, highlighted the frozen property market had led to the building material sales slump. Vuong Hai last year launched into the market 15,000 bricks, a modest figure compared to its factory’s capacity of 100,000 cubic meters a year.

According to the Vietnam Association for Building Materials (VABM), some 330 billion clay bricks will be produced from now to 2020, consuming 550 million cubic meters of clay, or 25,000 hectares of farmland, and 40 million tons of coal, as well as emitting 148 million tons of carbon dioxide to the environment.

Therefore, the Government in April 2010 released Decision 567/QD-TTg setting the target that unbaked materials will make up 40% of the building materials produced in 2020. The decision also requires buildings above nine stories to use lightweight concrete brick, at least 30% of the total amount of materials needed.

Given the market trend and the encouragement of the Government, multiple enterprises have invested in unbaked brick production, even when the market for the green material has yet to grow.

Nine AAC factories have been put into operation, with the combined capacity of 1.5 million cubic meters a year. In addition, 17 foam concrete plants and over 30 factories producing cement block bricks, together with hundreds of other production bases nationwide, have taken the annual output of unbaked materials to 4.3 billion units, accounting for 17-18% of the building material production volume.

Demand remains dreary

Despite its many advantages over traditional baked brick, adobe is poorly consumed because it was introduced in an unfavorable time of realty market slowdown

The troubled property market forces project developers to slow down their construction progress. Owners of constructions with finished foundations and structures are waiting until having customers to finalize the projects, while lightweight concrete brick is mainly used in the complete stage of a project when walls are built.

Therefore, not only lightweight concrete brick but common bricks for wall building also face sluggish sales.

Another factor that discourages consumers to use adobe is its exorbitant price, almost twice as much as clay brick. A cubic meter of lightweight concrete brick is priced at around VND1.3 million, versus VND700,000 of traditional brick.

Moreover, using the green material in construction, though not complicated, requires certain techniques. A dedicated mortar must be used to bind the unbaked bricks together.

According to Tran Xuan Dai Thang, general director of the construction consultancy provider Alinco, using lightweight concrete brick in developing high-rise buildings will help reduce the costs for footing construction, which usually makes up a considerable portion of the total costs.

Still, many developers are hesitant to apply this material in their projects, and only use the material for the indoor space, not the outer walls for fear of water infiltration.

Sharing this view, Truong Phu Cuong, chairman of the HCMC association for construction and building materials, said lightweight concrete brick is now only used in high buildings to help project owners save costs, while neglected by developers of normal houses and villas as they have yet to find any benefit from using this kind of brick.

Habit is a major obstacle hindering the use of adobe because property developers are well accustomed to baked clay brick, said Cuong. Even the users of adobe doubt if the material is safe.

Furthermore, not so many high-rise building developers comply with the regulation about the amount of lightweight concrete bricks due to the lack of sanctions, except for a few foreign developers who comprehend the advantages of this material.

Cuong suggested organizing seminars to provide more information on lightweight concrete brick, as well as seeking ways to pull down the material’s price. Besides, the Government should adopt supporting policies, such as reducing taxes for both producers and users of the unbaked material.

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