Tag Archives: building

Sustainable materials

Reducing the environmental impact of construction by using local materials

It is very important to us when building community infrastructures, to reduce the environmental impact to a minimum. The energy needed for the production and transport of materials does not just increase the costs of construction considerably, but can also have a significant impact on the environment.

The  “grey energy” calculation includes the full analysis of the life cycle of the product: Planning, extraction and transport of raw materials, transformation of materials and manufacture of the product, commercialisation, transport, use and implementation and finally, any possible recycling. From this point of view, local materials that are either not transformed or only slightly transformed have a distinct advantage over the others: Stone, earth, clay, straw, wood or wool are all materials that can be used in modern construction and that have very low « grey energy ».

In the remote areas of central Afghanistan, the long distances needed for transportation increase the “grey energy” rate. The manufacture of some construction materials also plays its part in inflating the energy costs and has a negative impact on the environment. For this reason stone was chosen rather than clay bricks for the majority of Nai Qala constructions. Although there is an almost limitless availability of clay and it is totally recyclable, the firing of bricks involves high energy consumption that can last up to several days at temperatures of more than 1000 degrees. The kilns sometimes function with the use of fossil fuels or often with wood sourced from already arid regions, which contributes to deforestation.

When choosing a construction company and signing contracts the construction materials are chosen very carefully so as to ensure safety and comfort for those who use the building at the same time as keeping the environmental impact to a minimum.  For example, Sokthagi school is built from stones extracted from the nearby mountains and are cut to size on the spot. The grit and sand used for the mortar come from a river close by. Only the wood for the framework, windows and doors is transported from other regions. The sourcing of materials brings about a more positive ecological balance to the construction.

Learning construction skills

Nai Qala always hires local people to assist with the construction of community infrastructures.

In addition to earning money, villagers also learn while working. Nai Qala’s buildings are constructed with up-to-date techniques that are considered to be very new building methods in these areas where traditional houses are made from mud and do not have windows.


Equipped with new building skills, villagers can find jobs in other types of construction. When a non-profit organization comes to their villages, they can offer their skill or they may find a job outside the village and bring a salary home.

One local worker said: “I cannot go somewhere and offer my shepherd skill or cutting bushes from mountains… but this new construction skill now gives me more options for job opportunities. I find a job and earn money.”

 

A sweet tradition in Sokhtagi

Opening ceremony to celebrate the start of construction work at Sokhtagi school.

The first stone was laid down by the chief of Sokhtagi community as well as the provincial education minister.


Local tradition is to wrap the first stone in a red fabric, tied it with a ribbon and have sweets.

Sokhtagi school construction just started

Construction of the new school building just started in the village of Sokhtagi, with the support of the community

Villagers rented a tractor and prepared the field so that construction could start: 6 meter deep, on a surface of 1300 square meters.

The ceremony for the opening of the construction happened in the presence of the local community, the provincial minister of education and, of course, the girls who will benefit from the new building.