Engineering properties of unfired clay masonry bricks

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The shortage of low cost and affordable housing in the UK has led to many investigations into new building masonry materials. Fired clay masonry bricks are conventionally used for mainstream masonry wall construction but suffer from the rising price of energy plus other related environmental problems such as high energy usage and carbon dioxide emission. The use of stabilised unfired clay bricks for masonry construction may solve these problems. This paper reports on the engineering properties of unfired clay bricks produced during the first industrial trial of unfired clay material development carried out at Hanson Brick Company, in Stewartby, Bedfordshire, under the Knowledge Exploitation Fund (KEF) Collaborative Industrial Research Project (CIRP) programme. The mixes were formulated using a locally available industrial by-product (Ground Granulated Blastfurnace Slag — GGBS) which is activated with an alkaline (lime or Portland cement) combined with clay soil. Portland cement was not used in the formulation of the unfired stabilised masonry bricks, except as a control, which is a significant scientific breakthrough for the building industry. Another breakthrough is the fact that only about 1.5% lime was used for GGBS activation. This level of lime is not sufficient for most road construction applications where less strength values are needed and where 3–8% lime is required for effective soil stabilisation. Hence, the final pricing of the unfired clay bricks is expected to be relatively low. The laboratory results demonstrate that the compressive strength, moisture content, rate of water absorption, percentage of void, density and durability assessment (repeated 24-hour freezing/thawing cycles) were all within the acceptable engineering standards for clay masonry units. The paper also discusses on the environmental performance of the unfired clay in comparison to the bricks, used in mainstream construction of today. The bricks produced using this technology can be used for low-medium cost housing and energy efficient masonry wall construction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130 - 139
Number of pages9
JournalEngineering Geology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2009


  • compressive strength
  • freezing
  • thawing
  • slag
  • unfired
  • clay
  • masonry
  • bricks
  • sustainability


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