More than 90 per cent of the construction materials used in the country, including bricks and tiles, are fired in kilns, while 70 to 80 per cent of the world’s market is made up of non-fired products.
A recent survey by the Viet Nam Institute for Building Materials (VIBM) shows that there are around 1,000 facilities producing non-fired bricks in the country with total capacity of two billion bricks annually, around 9 per cent of the total number of masonry bricks used in construction works.
VIBM director Thai Duy Sam identified several factors responsible for this situation. He said Viet Nam has to import essential equipment and technological materials, resulting in higher production costs of non-fired materials.
The lack of supportive policies was also a main reason inhibiting the development of non-fired construction materials in Viet Nam, Sam said. He said the Government has neither implemented preferential policies nor promoted awareness among the public of the advantages of using non-fired bricks.
Viet Nam also does not have a standard system for using non-fired construction materials that suit local conditions, he added.
Non-fired construction materials are produced using waste from construction works such as rubble or from industrial factories, like coal slag discharged by thermal power stations and ship building and repairing facilities. The materials, which include bricks and concrete, are made by special pressing technologies.
Many construction experts say that the non-fired materials are much stronger, lighter and cheaper than their fired counterparts.
They are also considered more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Fired materials (also called masonry materials) are always baked in kilns that discharge lots of smoke into the environment.
In Viet Nam, fired materials, mainly bricks and tiles, are made from clay that is believed to be good soil for agriculture. This means that the more soil is taken for making clay-fired bricks and tiles, the narrower the land for growing crops.
Experts say that while the world is concerned about shrinking arable land, threatening global food security, Viet Nam should reconsider taking a lot of soil for constructing buildings.
Additionally, all clay-fired bricks and tiles discharge a lot of CO2, contributing to the climate change phenomenon that the country has already been affected by.
More and more countries, especially developed nations, are turning to non-fired construction materials that are made without using soil and discharging harmful smoke.
In developed countries, the rate of using fired materials is estimated at around 20 per cent and the materials are mainly used for decoration purposes.
Responding to the increasing importance of non-fired construction materials, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung issued Decision 121/2008/QD-TTG in Aug 2008, setting a target for gradually replacing clay-fired bricks with non-fired bricks in construction works.
The decision targets increasing the use of non-fired bricks to 40 per cent by 2020.
Senior officials from the Department of Construction Materials under the Ministry of Construction said that the ministry has sent delegations on study tours to foreign countries and found that they have issued a lot of supportive policies for businesses producing non-fired materials.
For example, China has exempted businesses investing in non-fired materials from corporate income tax, and those producing non-fired concrete bricks have been given value added tax (VAT) exemption.
The ministry will recommend that the Government provides financial support to businesses investing in non-fired construction materials through preferential loans from the state budget or international organisations.
It also plans to propose that the Government exempts import tax for equipment and materials used in producing non-fired products and also offers lower land rents, corporate income tax and VAT.
According to the ministry, the Government should encourage construction firms to strengthen use of non-fired bricks in Viet Nam. It should also set the rate of non-fired bricks used in construction projects invested in by the State Budget to 80 per cent by 2011.
The ministry is also calling for awareness campaigns, and increased scientific research and training on non-fired materials in universities, saying it is necessary to develop the industry in all aspects.
Apart from developing non-fired materials, the ministry also recommends that the Government sets up an effective mechanism to reduce gradually the use of clay-fired materials.
Localities should publicise a plan on using soil for producing clay-fired bricks to prevent overuse of agricultural land. It also plans higher taxes on clay-fired bricks and tiles.
Le Van Toi, head of the Department of Construction Materials, said they will soon submit to the Government a plan to develop non-fired construction materials and gradually replace fired material to save land, salvage construction and industrial waste, and protect the environment, Sam said.