United Nations Development  Programme United Nations Development  Programme
TERI Ministry of Environment and Forests
Energy Efficiency Improvements in the Indian Brick Industry
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Common fired clay brick is one of the important building materials in India. Bricks are used as walling material in most residential and commercial buildings. They are also used for other applications, e.g. road and canal construction. India is the second largest producer of bricks in the world, and is next only to China in terms of brick production. An estimated 140 billion bricks were produced during the year 2000–01. Brick production is estimated to be growing at a rate of 4% per year.

Bricks are produced at village and rural enterprise levels. The sizes of brick units are much smaller in the rural areas. However, in peri-urban areas, the size of brick producing units is much larger, and clustering of brick making units is quite common. Regional variations are also observed in the size and scale of the brick production units. The total number of brick making units is estimated at around 100,000.

Traditional technologies are used for brick production. In general, bricks are hand moulded, sun dried and fired in a kiln. The entire process of brick making is manual and estimated to provide employment to 8 million workers.

Technologies used

Bull’s trench kilns (BTKs) and clamps are two prominent firing technologies used for brick making in India. The BTK is a continuous type kiln and has higher production capacities (15,000–50,000 bricks per day). It also has better energy efficiency compared to clamps. BTKs account for 70% of the total brick production in the country. Coal is the main fuel used in BTKs. The specific energy consumption in firing bricks in BTKs ranges between 1.1 and 1.6 MJ/kg of fired brick.

Clamps are used for smaller production levels. A variety of fuels such as coal, firewood, various types of agricultural residues and dung cakes are used in clamps. Large variations are observed in the shape, size, stacking of bricks and firing techniques in clamps. Generally, energy efficiencies of clamps are lower. The specific energy consumption of clamps ranges between 1.5 and 3.0 MJ/kg of fired brick.

Energy use in brick firing

Brick firing is an energy-intensive process. The annual estimated coal consumption by the brick industry is 24 million tonnes, which represents around 8% of the total coal consumption in India. Besides coal, the Indian brick industry also consumes a large quantity of biomass fuels. The share of fuel in the total production cost of bricks is in the range of 35% to 50%. The total estimated expenditure on fuel by the Indian brick industry is in excess of one billion USD (1 USD= Rs 50).

Concerns in the brick sector

Stack emissions are a major source of air pollution by the brick industry. The brick industry also uses up good quality top soil from agricultural fields. The unplanned and unregulated exploitation of good quality agriculture soil for brick making is a major area of concern. Production of 140 billion bricks per year (year 2000-01 estimates) requires around 540 million tonnes of soil. The depth of excavation is shallow and usually ranges from 0.5 – 2 metres. Assuming an average depth of excavation of 0.75 m, around 500 sq. km of agriculture land is adversely affected by brick production every year.

The Indian brick industry produces mainly one product, i.e. red coloured, hand moulded, solid bricks. For long-term sustainability of the industry, it is important to diversify the product range and move towards products that are less resource intensive and fulfil market requirements. Production of less resource intensive clay products and use of alternate building materials can result in significant conservation of top soil.


The barriers that are responsible for stagnation of the Indian brick sector are also inhibiting technology upgradation. The major barriers identified in the Indian brick sector are as follows:

(i) Policy

The existing codes and specifications for building materials are based on traditional brick making and do not meet modern practices and technologies. With the availability of new building materials, these codes and specifications need to be reviewed and modified for large scale production and end-use.

(ii) Financial

There is lack of awareness and knowledge among brick kiln entrepreneurs necessary to prepare project reports/ documents for seeking loans from financial institutions/ banks. The credit-worthiness of brick kiln entrepreneurs is also not very favourably viewed by banks. At present, there is no tailor-made financial instrument available to brick kiln entrepreneurs for investing in technology upgradation. Higher transaction costs are envisaged by individual brick kiln entrepreneurs for developing markets for resource efficient bricks. These financial barriers are responsible for brick kiln entrepreneurs not investing in technology upgradation and by banks related activities.

(iii) Business skills

The majority of the brick kiln entrepreneurs use traditional methods of green brick production, brick firing and marketing. They lack capacities in regard to modern practices in marketing, business opportunities and kiln management. There is also lack of trained manpower to cope with new technology changes.

(iv) Technology

There is limited availability of technology know-how for resource efficient bricks, as very few technology providers are available in the country. With brick kiln operations in India generally being carried out at the small scale level, individual brick kiln entrepreneurs find it difficult to access such know-how.

(v) Awareness barrier

The present level of awareness of entrepreneurs and end-users on modern technologies (machineries) and building products is low. The benefits from the production of resource efficient bricks - such as energy savings, reduction in top soil consumption and air pollution - are also not well known to brick entrepreneurs. The end-users such as builders, architects, etc. too lack information on the benefits of using REBs in building construction (insulation properties of REBs, saving in mortar during construction, etc.).