Energy-smart bricks slash power bills and construction costs

By Jarrod
3 Min Read

Engineers are helping homeowners and builders cut costs with their newest invention – energy-efficient bricks. 

RMIT University engineers collaborated with Visy – Australia’s largest recycling company – to make bricks with a minimum of 15 per cent waste glass and 20 per cent combusted solid waste (ash) as substitutes for clay.

Testing by the team found 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.

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

Team leader Associate Professor Dilan Robert said this eco-friendly product could cut emissions from the 1.4 trillion bricks 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,” he said. 

Building an energy-efficient home

This latest recycling effort could mean savings for millions of Aussies, especially at a time when power bills are set to soar. 

The team’s research showed the new bricks have enhanced energy efficiency through “improved thermal performance” and met the industry’s high bar when it came to stringent structural, durability and environmental sustainability standards. 

RMIT research team behind the energy-smart bricks in a lab. Credit: Seamus Daniel, RMIT University

“Bricks play a key role in preventing energy loss from buildings,” Robert said.

“We can also produce light-weight bricks in a range of colours from white to dark red by changing our formulations.”

According to a 2017 behaviour and attitudes study commissioned by industry association Think Brick Australia, 64 per cent of Aussies live in brick homes, and even more (75 per cent) are considering choosing brick exteriors when building a new home or adding a major extension to their homes. 

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

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

Boosting construction circular economy

In Victoria, Visy recycles glass packaging into new bottles and jars. However, glass pieces smaller than 3mm—referred to as fines—cannot be recycled into bottles.

“We are focusing on scaling up the production process to facilitate the commercialisation of our innovative bricks in collaboration with brick manufacturers in Melbourne,” Robert said.

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,” he said.

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

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By Jarrod
Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.

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