3 Sustainable Building Material Alternatives for Clay

Aug 09, 2022

The most popular material for masonry construction are bricks and over the last two decades, concrete blocks were extensively used for faster construction and high-rise buildings. There are more environmentally effective materials that have value-added properties and cost-saving factors. Before we begin to understand alternative materials let’s clear our thoughts on sustainable construction.

"Sustainable construction is the practice to create a healthy environment with ecological principles. Our goal as professionals in the construction industry is to reduce the impact on the environment by utilizing sustainable development practices, low-carbon emission materials employing energy efficiency, and taking advantage of green technology."

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Paving the way to sustainable practices there are three alternatives to Bricks & Concrete Blocks – Stabilized Earth Blocks, Agrocrete, Porotherm Blocks.

1. Stabilized Earth Blocks

SMBs are Stabilized Earth Blocks, manufactured by compacting or pressing wet soil, sand with binding agents like cement, lime. Sometimes include by-products from aluminum manufacture. The Cement content is always 50% of clay content & clay content is never more than 15%. Minimizing the cement drastically compared to concrete blocks, even though there are no eco-friendly alternatives replacing cement as binding and plaster material. However, that discussion is for another day!

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The Clay, Soil & Cement mixture is then subjected to pressure and molded into blocks.

Can they be used in the same application as Bricks & Concrete Blocks?

Well, of course! Stabilized earth blocks can be used for the construction same as conventional material; however, the limitation lay when it comes to multi-storey commercial building.

These blocks can be introduced as a cost-effective, eco-friendly alternative for construction.

Eco-friendly & Energy Efficient, how?

Stabilized earth blocks naturally can absorb the moisture from the atmosphere providing better humidity and heat insulation to the space. It also improves indoor air quality.

Earth blocks prove to be eco-friendly from the manufacturing process and throughout the lifecycle of the building. Earth Blocks are not burnt, reducing emission of any gases throughout its manufacturing process. When compared to burnt clay Bricks, embodied energy & carbon emissions of these blocks are 10 to 12 times lower. Its insulation capacity reduces overall energy consumption for homes.

How strong & durable are Earth Blocks compared to conventional Materials?

Earth Blocks are compressed with stabilizing fibrous agents like coir & straw which improves the tensile strength of the block. The proportion of these stabilizing agents & binding material like lime, fly ash, and sometimes cement is sufficiently mixed after testing the soil. The Compressive Strength of fibrous Earth Blocks are higher than normal pressed mud blocks.

We had the pleasure of hosting Mr. Sagar Reddy, Founder at Earth Blocks for an insightful talk who shed light on the features, workings, and technology of Earth Blocks. Watch the Video Now!

Does Earth Block surpass aesthetic & life cycle value?

A Structure made of Earth Blocks looks elegant, it is structurally strong. These Blocks have smooth surfaces and the color tone reflecting from the type of soil makes it aesthetically classic and appealing! Do you dare to disagree? Earth Blocks are used without any finishing surface or plaster rendering the wall. Making it a cost-effective option.

Earth Blocks reduce the lifetime cost of the maintenance and repair. Highly compressed blocks are rarely prone to surface cracks which prolongs the life span of the building. Earth Blocks not only prove to be eco-friendly but also reduce the cost of maintenance in the long run.

Zero Waste material, Earth Blocks fits perfectly in a circular consumption. After a lifetime of use, structures made from Earth Blocks can be torn down and be integrated with soil which drastically reduces the construction waste. In this context, Mr. Sagar, Founder of Earth Block referred to “Earthen blocks as cradle-to-cradle products!”

Earth Blocks Products on Arkihive

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Available Sizes

  • Solid Block Size 1: L x W x H (300x150x100mm) or (12in x 6in x 4in)
  • Solid Block Size 2: L x W x H (300x200x100mm) or (12in x 8in x 4in)

(Length can vary +/- 5mm in these bricks)

2. Agrocrete from Green Jams

Agrocrete is a bio-based construction material solely made of agriculture waste & crop residue. The crop waste is crushed and blended with industrial by-products. The lime-based binders along with water together make a wet mix which are compressed and moulded into blocks and then naturally dried in the sun.

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Agrocete from GreenJams is a proud alternative building material for Replacement of clay bricks, fly ash bricks and concrete masonry units. Best suited for load-bearing construction and low-rise structures. GreenJams pledge use of Agrocrete as alternative will deliver the following benefit:

  • 50% lower construction cost
  • 50% higher thermal insulation
  • 30% lesser weight
  • 60% faster masonry
  • 60% lesser mortar required
  • 20% lesser plaster requirements

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Other features: Excellent finish, mason-friendly, monumental durability and life, excellent bonding with plaster.

3. Porotherm Blocks

Porotherm means breathable material. It is widely used in conjunction with masonry and wall solution. And this precisely describes Porotherm Blocks, in comparison to Clay Bricks, Porotherm Clay Blocks are light in weight, offer better acoustic performance and heat insulation owing to the hollow caves in the block.

Porotherm blocks are easy to install because they weigh 60% less than conventional masonry material. Resulting in faster construction. These Blocks have lower water absorption capacity 5% - 10% less than clay bricks. Thus, reducing the risk of dampness in the structure, cracks and even shrinkage of walls. Reduced porosity allows walls to dry at a faster rate and regulates the internal temperature.

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Why are Porotherm Blocks a sustainable alternative?
Made from 100% natural clay, these blocks are eco-friendly with natural additives such as coal, ash, rice husk & granite slurry. It is free from chemical additives and does not emit toxic gas or fumes that may affect the environment or health.

These Blocks can also be easily recycled and are classified as green building material. Porotherm Blocks from Wienerberger certified by IGBC & GRIHA.

Do Porotherm Blocks offer better strength & durability?

A direct comparison is not appropriate since Porotherm Blocks are of two types with horizontal perforation for non-load bearing constructions & Vertical Perforations are preferred for load bearing. However, Porotherm Blocks offer higher strength to weight ratio, better seismic resistance.

In brief, the advantages of Porotherm are:

  • Light-weight blocks offering faster construction
  • Increased comfort, indoor air quality & healthy living
  • Natural & green building material
  • Offers maximum fire resistance & protection
  • Excellent thermal & sound insulation
  • Savings on structural cost
  • High compressive trength
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Wienerberger Porotherm Blocks on Arkihive

  • Horizontal Perforated Clay Blocks – HP
  • Vertical perforated Clay Blocks – VP
  • Grinded Horizontal Perforated Clay Blocks – HPG
  • Smart Bricks / Thermo Blocks – Horizontal Perforated Clay Blocks – HPSB

Download the Arkihive app now to browse through hundreds of sustainable material options!


Anusha Ashok

I believe only art can change the world! Although, I constantly critique the design approach & in dispute with my belief. But usually found having tea & listening to Coldplay.