Tuesday, January 31, 2012

FirstPost Mumbai: Garbage-in, Garbage-out: The state of bricks in Mumbai

Image: eartharchitecture.org
Here is an excerpt from my new column on FirstPost.Com:
Garbage-in, garbage-out: The state of bricks in Mumbai
for full article , click on link above

Many kilns in operation just outside Mumbai work with rough and ready techniques for firing bricks that obey no norms of production. Although guidelines for building and operating brick kilns have been framed by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), it is unlikely that these kiln owners have even heard of the organisation. Their work habits result in near-toxic levels of air pollution in the vicinity of the kilns which are fired for days on end, emitting the acrid smoke that every worker cannot avoid inhaling. Notwithstanding this, bricks are churned out by the millions.

The quality of bricks produced and available in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai are, even to be most charitable, rubbish. In architecture school, we learnt that a good brick should be ‘of standard size, have sharp and truly right angled corners, have a bright colour, be of dense and uniform texture, should emit a ringing sound when struck, and, when dropped from a height of three feet or so should not break into pieces.’ None of this applies to the average Mumbai brick. Given the fact that most of your houses have an external face that is only half-a-brick thick, is it little wonder that your houses leak? If the supply end is poor to start with, how could the constructed edifice be otherwise?

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