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Alternatives ways of housing beyond bricks, & cement, a list!

Alternatives ways of housing: Building houses using bricks is not a new concept and has been in use since 7000 BC.

By nayanikaphukan
New Update
alternatives of bricks and cement

Alternatives ways of housing: Building houses using bricks is not a new concept and has been in use since 7000 BC. Rather, this makes them one of the oldest known building materials. The evidence can be seen today in the remains of Harappa and Mohenjo- Daro, in the Indus Valley Civilisation.

The machine makes 42 bricks approximately every 30 seconds. |
The machine makes 42 bricks approximately every 30 seconds. | Anna Frodesiak, via Wikimedia Commons

Bricks were made by hand until 1885 using clay and straw which was then sun-dried to make them sturdy.

The real concern arose after the industrial revolution when handmade production was replaced by brick-making machines.

These machines could make as much as 12,000 bricks a day.

At the same time, contributed to air pollutants primarily from the combustion of fossil fuels releasing VOCs, CO2, and particulate matter.

The cement industry is a major contributor to climate change and environmental disruption. Gases like nitrous oxides (NOx), Carbon dioxide (CO2), dust, chlorides, fluorides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and small quantities of heavy metals are released from a cement kiln.

Read more: Impacts of Cement Industry on Environment - An Overview

These gases are not only detrimental to human health but also result in acid rain, ozone depletion and loss of biodiversity.

Therefore, there arises a need to look for eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives for building houses.

Some alternative ways:

Fly ash

Fly ash is the residual material produced during the combustion of fossil fuels. Instead of dumping it into landfills, it can instead be used as a substitute for cement. It requires less water and has improved paste properties and workability. Using fly ash can reduce the demand for cement by 20% and the water demand by 10%.

Fly Ash Bricks in stock | Courtesy: Praveenvatsa, via Wikimedia Commons

Mud blocks

Mud houses are quite common in rural India because of their low cost and widespread availability. Owing to its low cost it can also solve the severe problem of housing shortage in the country. It is also recyclable and biodegradable contributing to a circular economy, as at the end of the life cycle it can go back to nature where it initially came from.

A man making mud blocks | Courtesy: KelvinJM, via Wikimedia Commons

Municipal Solid Waste incineration ash

Because of the large volumes of waste produced by households and the lack of landfills, municipal solid wastes are incinerated which produces ash. This ash when mixed with calcium oxide has the properties to replace the traditional cement mix.

Read more: An Overview of Eco-Friendly Alternatives as the Replacement of Cement in Concrete


Bamboo houses can be found in parts of Bihar, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, and Orissa. India has the second largest bamboo reserve in the world and some of its advantages over brick and cement include its rapid growth and high yield and comparable structural properties to steel and concrete. It is also a sustainable and renewable construction material that has little to no impact on the environment.

Traditional riang house, made from bamboo in tripura | Courtesy: Flickr

Read more: Bamboo: A Sustainable and Low-Cost Housing Material for India


Some of the proposed alternative ways have their drawbacks. Although, with proper development and research they have the potential to replace the traditional brick and cement houses with more sustainable and eco-friendly houses.

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