Clean and green: Austral’s new carbon-neutral bricks

Introducing Austral’s new carbon-neutral brick, which has been given the tick by the National Carbon Offset program.

Looking for an innovative building material that is sustainable, carbon neutral and recyclable? Then think brick.

Clay-fired bricks may have been around for more than 6000 years, but recent innovations mean they are the obvious choice for anyone designing an energy-efficient, carbon-neutral building.
At its Longford facility near Launceston, Austral Bricks is producing Australia’s first carbon-neutral bricks to be certified under the government’s National Carbon Offset Standard.

Austral Bricks achieved this certification by replacing gas with sawdust, a by-product of the local timber industry, as a fuel source in its brick kilns at Longford.Carbon-neutral bricks and pavers are now available across Australia under the Austral Bricks and Daniel Robertson brand.
Cathy Inglis, Brickworks’ General Manager of Technical and Innovation, says the sawdust-fired kilns, in use since 2013, produce only 215 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year compared to 8600 tonnes a year produced from the old gas-fired kilns.To put this into perspective, 215 tonnes is about the same amount of carbon dioxide generated in a year by 12 households.

In addition to burning sawdust in its brickmaking kilns, the Longford facility has introduced a host of new measures covering extraction, transport, packaging and waste to ensure the plant is more energy efficient.

Brickworks also buys forestry-based carbon offsets to ensure that its Longford bricks are carbon neutral. “There is a small cost involved in buying carbon credits,” she says, “but the business is able to absorb this so there is no additional cost to customers.”

Daniel Robertson bricks might be Brickworks’ only certified carbon-neutral bricks, but the company has, in fact, achieved reductions in emissions outside Tasmania as well. Indeed, the changes at its Longford plant are part of a wider commitment that Brickworks has to making its Australian operations cleaner, greener and more efficient.

According to Inglis, landfill gas that was previously flared and wasted is replacing up to half of the natural gas used in some plants. Commercial, industrial, demolition and green wastes are also being trialled as replacement fuels. Elsewhere, biosolids from a range of sources are being incorporated into the brick mixture to create lighter bricks that save energy in the manufacturing process, and also in the transport of the final product.

It is estimated that these initiatives alone will reduce the company’s carbon dioxide emissions by more than 50,000 tonnes a year and substantially reduce its operating costs.

“These projects are all part of Brickworks’ mission to reduce its energy consumption, environmental footprint and operating costs by moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources,” says Inglis.

For those who have long championed the superior thermal qualities of brick, their durability, and the fact they can be recycled, the advent of carbon-neutral bricks underlines their appeal as a sustainable building material.Ric West, Commercial Analyst for Austral Bricks Victoria, says homeowners can now enjoy all of the benefits of bricks without having to worry about how much energy was required to make them.

“Fortunately, there is no extra cost in carbon-neutral bricks,” he says. “So it’s a win-win for the homeowner and the environment.”

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