Building bricks for climate change
14Trees makes and sells Durabric bricks, a more sustainable alternative to the
clay-burnt bricks widely used across sub-Saharan Africa.
Durabric bricks are produced from a mixture of soil and cement, which is compressed in a mould and left to air-cure. In Malawi, bricks are usually fired with wood unsustainably logged from forests, which is a major contributor to deforestation across the region. By avoiding the firing process entirely, Durabric bricks save up to 14 trees for every new house built.
A joint venture between BII and LafargeHolcim, the company is based in Malawi and is already expanding across East Africa. It is also exploring low-embodied carbon construction for example alternative cements and 3D printing. In its first three years of operation, 14Trees sold over 2 million Durabric bricks in Malawi, saving the equivalent of 4,000 trees.
With the support of BII Plus, the ESG I team has been working with 14Trees to generate carbon credits from the emissions savings. One credit is issued for every tonne of emissions saved by using this process, measured against a benchmark representing the average corollary building material for the market. 14Trees is in the process of qualifying for Gold Standard-approved credits for the voluntary emissions reduction (VER) market. Working with Gold Standard allows 14Trees to demonstrate both its environmental and social benefits. The issuance process is thorough and involves working with local communities and stakeholders: this ensures that the bricks are produced in a manner that is sensitive to local livelihoods and which provides social impact.
This project is unique in many respects. It is the first of its kind for Gold Standard and is BII’s first project supporting carbon asset development. The aim of the carbon credits project is to support the financial viability of innovative solutions by providing revenues for 14Trees. However, as 14Trees is a JV with BII and LafargeHolcim, we hope that solutions developed can ultimately be scaled through the wider construction industry.
To bring credits to market, the ESG I team engaged with 14Trees throughout the feasibility, planning and implementation phases of the project for over two years. Initial feasibility studies were needed to understand if carbon revenues could be viable, including understanding risks around attempting the project, and how different Durabrics are from the average brick in the market. As these credits are the first of their nature, the process has been particularly thorough and robust, but the methodology approved for 14Trees will serve as the benchmark for all future projects of this kind.
To support the project, we contributed knowledge of the carbon asset development processes, methods of increasing the credits’ value, and specialist advisory support. A big factor in the project’s success is LafargeHolcim’s consistent engagement, strong commitment at corporate and country levels and an institutional willingness to test new ideas. We anticipate that 14Trees will realise carbon finance revenues in early 2021.