In the spring of 2015, Nepal was struck by a major earthquake and numerous aftershocks. Along with damaged infrastructure and the tragic loss of human lives, the country’s brick industry also suffered heavy damage. Of the 800 kilns in Nepal, 350 were completely or partially affected. 105 of these were in the Kathmandu valley.
As the country began to rebuild, the demand for construction material was expected to surge. Nepal’s brick industry is informal in nature and building kilns is usually done on an ad-hoc basis. Not a single brick kiln in the country was constructed using engineered designs. To ensure that kilns were rebuilt to be safer, more efficient and less polluting, local brick entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, and architects worked together, with advice from international experts, to design a building manual for induced draught and natural draught zig-zag kilns.
The manual was the first of its kind in South Asia. Inside it kiln owners can find earthquake-resistant brick kiln designs and drawings that take energy efficiency, environmental concerns, and other social aspects into account. Stakeholders from the government, private sector, development organizations, NGO’s, and media were involved from the beginning. This helped in the ownership, support and avoided duplication of the effort.
Nine kilns have been rebuilt according to the new designs and other kilns have adopted the brick stacking and firing techniques. Emissions measured from these kilns showed a 60% decrease in particulate matter. Coal consumption was reduced by 40-50%. Only 70gm of coal is now needed to bake one brick whereas around 90-100 gm was required previously. Due to the efficient moving of fire, the number of bricks produced has also doubled. ‘A’ grade bricks has also increased by 90%. Workers are also experiencing less exposure to dust and pollution.
Total rebuilding costs is estimated to be around $100,000, which the entrepreneurs paid for themselves. The payback period for investing in rebuilding a kiln is expected to be less than two years. The kiln redesign has been a win-win situation. Entrepreneurs are benefiting from coal saving and better brick quality. The kilns are structurally sound, earthquake resistant, energy efficient and provides safer and healthier working conditions for workers.
The project was carried out with close collaboration with the Nepalese Government, which has invited CCAC partner - the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) - to be part of a committee to revise the brick kiln emission standard. The Department of Industry has since issued a notice that all brick kilns should be structurally safe and earthquake resistant. Requests have been flooding in from entrepreneurs who are rebuilding kilns as news has spread about how adopting the new design reduces coal and improves brick quality.
This story can also be found in the CCAC's latest 2015-2016 Annual Report here.