In the last two weeks, we have been comparing the production costs for mud bricks vs burnt bricks.
Our hope is to propose a business model for mud bricks production in Saurath, Bihar. To obtain the information, we visited a brick kiln surrounding Saurath in the first week. We have a survey about the process and all the related costs (fixed capital and recurring capital) for burnt brick manufacturing. (The brick kiln is not currently operating since it is the monsoon season.)
The Indian brick kiln industry, which is the second largest producer in the world, has more than 100,000 operating units, producing about 140 billion bricks annually. There are 9 kilns surrounding Saurath in different directions. If you look at them on the map, one can tell that they are evenly distributed. There are strict rules about the location of brick kilns in India, defining their distance to residents as well as their distance to each other.
To manufacture burnt brick, the top soil needs to be removed because it contains organic matter, which in the long run leads to the loss of fertile agricultural land. In Saurath, renting land is much cheaper if you do not dig the soil; however, brick making is still a popular way to make money because it is profitable.
We received a response from Build Up Nepal, an organization with deep experience in mud brick and bamboo construction in post-earthquake Nepal. Utilizing their information, we developed a report analyzing their financial model for mud brick production. The situation in Nepal is very different from India. For example, the compressed earth brick machine is imported from India, together with cement as a stabilizer. Theoretically, it should be much cheaper if we calculate the cost of production in India. Currently the unit cost (already exchanged into Indian Rupee) in the Build Up Nepal model is much more expensive than the cost for burnt bricks in India. This does not support our work because there is no way people will pay that much more for mud bricks when they can have burnt bricks easily.
Our plan is to search for a mud bricks factory in India to identify a practical price. We are also conducting research on the technical performance of mud bricks. Our goal is to prove that mud bricks can be as permanent as burnt bricks. Based on our community survey, the frequency of maintenance is one of the most important factors between a “kacha” and a “pukka” house.”