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In Malaysia buildings are most commonly built with a reinforced concrete floors, columns and beams, together with bricks walls. It is a flexible method suitable for single storey buildings as well as high-rise. However, it requires temporary timber to be used as formwork which acts as a mold for the wet concrete. And it needs quite a large amount of steel.
For low-rise buildings the old fashion concrete blocks can also be used – this building method does not need formwork and uses less steel. But in Malaysia, the problem is that there is a lack of block-laying skill. In practice it doesn’t turn out to be cheaper because more has to be spent on the labour to put up the block wall. This is true even in the situation where the average semi-skilled worker on site (usually from neighbouring Indonesia) only earns about RM 70 a day (USD 20).
The humble concrete block has been around for a long time, but it is still capable of being improved. Another speaker at Peter Davis’s seminar last month was Chou Kan Yin who presented his interlocking blocks.
It’s a simple idea. The blocks have tongue and groove edges – so that they interlock like ‘lego’ blocks. Laying these blocks is easy and doing it properly results in perfectly straight walls which need minimal plastering (another cost saving).
About 70% less steel bars is used.
A few years ago, Chou completed a couple of blocks of 4 storey apartments and several two storey detached and semi-detached house s that I designed.
I was very impressed by the quality of his work. As the cost of building materials continue to rise, and as long as cheap labour is still available, the economic advantages of his interlocking blocks will become more compelling.
Hydraform is about interlocking clay-cement bricks from South Africa.
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