Algerians Mould Bricks from Sahara Sand Dunes

sahara, sand, brick from sand, desert, Algeria, earth architecture, sustainable building materialsAlthough the Sahara desert used to be a green retreat for giraffes and hippos 5,000 years ago, it is now a giant, sometimes rolling landscape of sand. A lot of sand. In fact, roughly two thirds of Algeria is made up of sand, according to the authors of a study published in the Arabian Journal for Science and Engineering. And they believe it can be used to produce a sustainable building material for a limping construction industry. That’s right, they want to turn the dunes into bricks, and they already have a pretty good formula.

Since Algeria possesses very little in the way of aggregate materials that can be used in the construction industry, researchers from the University of Kasdi Merbah and the Polytechnic School of Algiers developed a new kind of brick made with little more than water, sand sourced from their own backyard – so to speak – and a binder.

While not as high tech as Markus Kayser’s solar-powered 3D printer which uses the sun’s power to turn desert sand into three dimensional objects, the Algerian researchers tested their sand bricks 750 times in order to deliver a strong, well-insulated material with superior mechanical resistance that is still affordable.

“If the compression and the thermal resistance of [the bricks] are validated by Algerian building material codes, it could solve the building material crises which Algerian builders are suffering from,” Ali Zaidi, a researcher in the Department of Civil Engineering of Algeria’s University of Laghouat, told SciDev.Net.

The country’s southern region is best suited to accommodate an industry of this nature, according to the researchers, who add that the bricks are resistant to fierce wind storms, scorcher days, and frigid nights.

We have long extolled the benefits of earth architecture, but primitive mud buildings no longer appeal to the majority of contemporary home owners.

Perhaps the  bricks of sand dune (BRSD)-based concrete will persuade the region to give earth another chance?

Stock image of red brick, Shutterstock

About Tafline Laylin

As a tour leader who led “eco-friendly” camping trips throughout North America, Tafline soon realized that she was instead leaving behind a trail of gas fumes, plastic bottles and Pringles. In fact, wherever she traveled – whether it was Viet Nam or South Africa or England – it became clear how inefficiently the mandate to re-think our consumer culture is reaching the general public. Born in Iran, raised in South Africa and the United States, she currently splits her time between Africa and the Middle East. Tafline can be reached at tafline (at) greenprophet (dot) com, @teakettle22,

2 thoughts on “Algerians Mould Bricks from Sahara Sand Dunes

  1. didi

    .im looking for potential investors to establish a similar project in booming namibian construction industry as the namibian government recently launched a mass housing project.

  2. Markus Preller

    concrete made from desert sand? NOPE.

    Although the referenced article

    implies that they have a new receipt for making “concrete made from desert sand”, the reality looks somehow different and much less sustainable:

    The research article published in the Arabian Journal for Science and Engineering (2012) 37:2149–2161, which can be obtained here:

    states clearly, that only conventional portland cement was used as binder, together with hydraulic lime in various mixtures.

    This is neither new nor sustainable, as the cement industry is know to be one of the biggest energy consumers and air polluters while leaving behind martian landscapes.

    If they had used only the hydraulic lime, the situation would be much more sustainable. But that is not new at all. Blocks and mortar from hydraulic lime and aggregates were used more then 6000 years ago already by all known ancient civilisations.

    Only we forgot and need to re-invent the knowledge or our ancestors…


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