low-fired brick 
Low-fired brick and terracotta pottery have the same appearance.
Photo credit:  Meemee Kanyarath 

For years, I’ve ruled out building with brick because of the large amount of energy consumed in the manufacturing process, and the associated environmental toll. Like concrete and other high embodied energy materials, high-fired brick is generally not considered a sustainable building option (excluding recycled brick, of course). Although high-fired brick is extremely durable, there are more sustainable choices.

Low-fired brick is one interesting option. It is the building system of choice for millions (possibly billions) in certain regions of the world, including tropical climates. This type of brick requires almost no maintenance, is fireproof and relatively inexpensive — about 1.5 to 2.5 cents each.

Low-fired bricks’ suitability to hot, humid, rainy climates may be its most practical attribute. It is extremely popular in tropical climates for use in housing, privacy walls and many types of commercial construction.

As proof of its durability, a key aspect of sustainability, low-fired bricks at least 4,000 years old have been discovered, thus making it one of the most durable building materials.

Low-fired brick is surprisingly lightweight, due in part to the piercings (cylindrical spaces through the center) and its porous consistency. Bucket loads of bricks can be carried or hoisted without problem. Individual bricks can be tossed up to workers with ease. 

Richard Csavoy
12/29/2010 6:58:34 PM

I have been a ceramic artist for well over 40 years and have to say that some locally harvested clay may have limestone in it in large to small pieces. When this clay is used to create projects, the lime pieces in it is transformed into a hygroscopic material. What this means is the lime in the finished project will absorb water from the air and expand. Anything made with this fired lime in it will eventually break apart from the pressure of expanding lime.

12/29/2010 5:41:07 PM

There's no manual in English that I'm aware of. But since they're made all over the world (primarily in countries where it doesn't freeze) there are probably manuals in other languages. They could be translated. In the US, the only suppliers would be along the southern border. Look for companies who import building materials from Mexico.

Rachel _1
12/29/2010 8:57:07 AM

Is there a book or manual out there for someone who wants to create their own low-fired bricks, or a training program perhaps; even a store where one could purchase these bricks would help. Thanks so much!

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