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Joint Venture for Sustainable New Building Materials

LafargeHolcim and UK-based development financier CDC Group have combined their resources to create new company 14Trees.

The joint venture dedicated to producing and distributing Durabric, a low-carbon and affordable alternative to traditional bricks made from burnt clay.

The size of the initial joint investment is $10 million from both partners with the intention of additional finance for the company’s ongoing growth.

The LafargeHolcim research and development (R&D) centre will be used to help 14Trees address the rising need for affordable homes for the billions of people across the globe who occupy earth-based dwellings.

Several countries in Africa are dealing with climate change as a result of mass deforestation created by a demand for wood to produce clay burnt bricks. Urbanisation and population growth have expanded the construction sector and put pressure on limited resources and fragile ecosystems.

Durabric is a potential solution for these challenges, as it produces bricks from earth and cement that have been compressed and cured naturally, without firing. This process saves an estimated 14 trees per house. Foregoing the firing phase enables Durabric to reduce greenhouse gas emissions tenfold compared to traditional brickmaking methods.

14Trees will also market a detailed range of unique and innovative building solutions, including roofing and screeds, which will bring down total construction costs by almost 25% compared to traditional approaches.

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14Trees will enable Durabric, which is already being used in Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Zambia, to be mass-marketed in other countries. In Malawi, over three million bricks have been produced since 2013 and subsequently been used in approximately 500 buildings. Malawi is also the site of a new Durabric plant that will open later in 2016.

Gérard Kuperfarb, who spearheads innovation and growth at LafargeHolcim, said that making the construction of affordable housing more sustainable is an important goal for the company as well as a key part of its 2030 sustainability plan. By combining LafargeHolcim’s local knowledge and technical skills with the CDC investment expertise, Durabric can be produced more quickly and in more countries.

CDC investment director Daudi Lelijveld said that his company’s investment and support will help 14Trees bring affordable and environmentally-friendly building materials to countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to reducing deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, 14Trees will create scores of new jobs.

Mr Lelijveld expressed hope that one day Durabric would be as common as clay burnt bricks are now.

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