On 15th June, Haileybury Youth Trust won the International Sustainable Buildings award at the Ashden Awards. The Awards uncover and reward the most exciting sustainable energy pioneers in the UK and developing world.
Haileybury Youth Trust is a charity training young people in Uganda to build buildings that are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. The use of innovative interlocking blocks of air-cured compressed earth, mixed with a little cement, is both a low-cost and carbon saving alternative to the traditional, environmentally damaging fired brick. As well as preventing deforestation and drastically reducing CO2 emissions, the buildings are transforming communities with the provision of sanitation facilities, housing and new schools. The skills that the young people are learning are helping create employment opportunities in one of the fastest growing populations in Africa.
Uganda has one of the fastest growing populations on earth, resulting in an increasing requirement for new housing, schools and other infrastructure. Approximately 80% of the population is under 30; many of these young people lack employable skills and youth unemployment is a growing problem.
The traditional hand-moulded fired brick used for building, with its reliance on local trees to fuel the brick-making kilns, is one of the biggest contributors to the destruction of Uganda’s forests. Tree cover in Uganda has fallen from 48% of the country in 1900, to less than 8% today. As tree cover decreases and the population increases, the price of the fired brick continues to rise, while their quality falls.
The Haileybury Youth Trust approach
Haileybury Youth Trust works directly with communities where there is a clear demand, availability of potential trainees and a commitment to maintain the buildings in the future. As both a charity and a social enterprise, they are able to address all three of the issues identified:
The development of the Interlocking Stabilised Soil Blocks (ISSBs), a compressed earth brick, is an economic and low-carbon alternative to the fired brick that also helps preserve the fragile Ugandan biodiversity.
Training young people to produce and then build with ISSBs provides them with masonry skills and the ability to find employment.
Graduate trainees can go on to work independently, supporting their local communities by building much needed structures, including rainwater harvesting tanks, school dormitories and kitchens. They may also be employed by Haileybury Youth Trust in social enterprise projects.
The ISSBs technology
The ISSBs at the core of Haileybury Youth Trust’s work are a simple solution to serious problems. The traditional fired bricks used in the majority of Ugandan buildings are becoming increasingly expensive and environmentally unsustainable to produce, as the supply of fire wood for the kilns declines. The quality of fired bricks is suffering, with excessive volumes of mortar being used to hide the deficiencies, while the life span of the buildings they are used in is declining.
In contrast, ISSBs are made on site by mixing subsoil with water, 6% cement and a small amount of sand. The mixture is then compressed using a high-pressure manual press and mould. The blocks are air-cured for 28 days before being ready for use. As the blocks interlock, very little mortar is needed in the building process, significantly reducing cost and saving more carbon.
The cost of building with ISSBs can be 30% less than using fired brick.
The Haileybury Youth Trust is a small organisation, but they have had a big impact on the communities that they work with.
HYT has constructed 139 buildings, improving the lives of over 40,000 people.
Nearly 100 young Ugandans have graduated from the training programme, 69 of whom remain involved in social enterprise projects.
Water tanks are providing clean water for schools and the installation of latrines and washing facilities are addressing health-related sanitation issues in communities. This is particularly relevant for teenage girls.
The provision of facilities is enabling thousands more children to access education and teachers to work in schools.
The ISSB construction technology is estimated to have saved 240 MWh of energy this year and 100 tonnes CO2e. Additional savings are made as blocks are constructed on site, reducing transport emissions and costs.
As scepticism attached to the use of ISSBs, sometimes seen as the poor man’s building material given their simplicity, starts to lessen, Haileybury Youth Trust are optimistic that there will be a wider adoption of this building method in Uganda. In the meantime, the Trust’s social enterprise arm is growing, with HYT contracted to build more housing, water tanks and other structures, as well as being asked to provide technical expertise.
Case study: Bugondha Butaaga classrooms
In addition to providing young trainees with comprehensive masonry and construction skills, the classrooms built as the result of HYT’s tenth community project double-up as a regulation-standard examination hall. This has transformed a neglected school into a popular regional examination centre.
The water tank built alongside the school saves pupils from having to make the long, and sometimes dangerous journey, to local boreholes to fetch water. This means that more children in the community can attend school as well as reducing the risk of contracting water-borne diseases.
Case study: Kadungulu Dormitory
One of Haileybury Youth Trust’s social enterprise projects, this dormitory, funded by a private benefactor, provides a safe sleeping place for 40 pupils at Kadungulu Secondary School. The school is in one of Uganda’s driest regions and the preservation of the remaining trees is increasingly urgent as droughts and famine continue to escalate. By partnering with Haileybury Youth Trust over a traditional contractor, seven mature trees were saved from being felled to fire the kilns to provide the 25,000 burnt bricks that would otherwise have been required.
To find out more or get involved with Haileybury Youth Trust, visit their website here or contact the Director, Russell Matcham (firstname.lastname@example.org)