THE Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) is looking to re-engage the village council of the North Rupununi village of Annai to source more clay bricks for the construction of low-income homes, since the material makes the homes cheaper to build.
CH&PA Chief Executive Officer, Lelon Saul, explained that using the clay bricks instead of the conventional concrete bricks could ‘shave’ as much as $1 million off the cost of building one of the 400 square foot low income ‘starter’ homes, being built in the Prospect New Housing Scheme.
“The houses built with the bricks are much cheaper and we recognize that. For example, if we are looking at the starter homes constructed that are 400 square feet, using the concrete blocks the building would cost us around $4 million but using the clay blocks it costs us about $3 million, you can see that it’s much cheaper,” Saul explained.
“The only place we’ve used it so far is Prospect, but once we continue we will re-engage them to get more bricks out of there,” Saul added.
With the CH&PA having a high focus on making housing as affordable as possible, the Agency has been actively pursuing cost cutting measures for low-income housing. CH&PA decided to begin using the material to build homes on the coast land, after seeing how well the material worked while being used in the interior.
“We have the Sustainable Housing for the Hinterland Project, and we were building houses for the Amerindian communities and in the Rupununi they were using these burnt bricks to build houses and we looked at the stuff and decided it would be a good thing if we can use the same thing on the coast. We asked the people in Annai to supply the bricks, and what we did is start with the constructing of the low-income houses,” Saul said.
Two pilot homes have already been built with the clay brick material and were on display at the “Open House Exhibition” at Prospect earlier this year. Aside from the price, using the clay bricks as the building material for the homes also offer other advantages.
“It is somewhat better because with the clay blocks the building is much cooler. And with the starter homes when you use the clay blocks you would reduce the amount of steel you are using in the construction of the home, and it is durable. Notwithstanding that, it reduces the amount of steel, it’s durable and all of that would make the price go down,” Saul said.
The homes were recently given an approving nod by President David Granger, when he visited the Prospect Community late last month and personally inspected one of the homes.
However, notwithstanding the advantages of using the locally made materials there are some challenges to the supply of the material.
“These blocks, they have to be transported from the Rupununi and can only be made during the dry season. So when it’s the rainy season in the Rupununi it is difficult for them to make these blocks, because these blocks are basically baked and not baked in an electric oven. As well the clay is being sourced from along the river banks and during the rainy season the river is overflowing,” Saul explained.
Nonetheless, CH&PA is looking forward to using the clay bricks more widely in its building initiative, and believes sourcing the bricks in larger quantities could bring down the price even further.
“We believe that we can benefit from economy of scale, if we are to build a large amount of houses the price could eventually go down. We hope to re-engage them to bring more bricks to the coast as we continue our housing drive,” Saul said.