Building Pioneers

Worldwide, there are over one billion people living in substandard houses, which pose a risk to the health, safety and physical well being of their inhabitants. By 2030, this number is expected to triple. Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and at the same time, one of the poorest and most vulnerable in terms of natural disasters (floods, cyclones, earthquakes). Apart from substandard housing, Bangladesh faces sever environmental damage caused by the production of fired clay bricks (FCB): there are an estimated 6000 kilns in Bangladesh, which rely on an out-dated, energy inefficient technology. They produce 13 billion FCB per year consuming 3.5 million tonnes of coal and 2 million tonnes of firewood. This causes severe deforestation and 9 million tonnes of CO2-emissions.

Building Pioneers is a German social business start-up. We aim to improve housing conditions of underprivileged communities in Bangladesh by promoting an alternative building material: Compressed Stabilized Earth Blocks (CSEB).

CSEB is an affordable, eco-friendly and disaster resistant alternative to conventional fired clay bricks (FCB). CSEB production is low-tech: they consist of soil, sand, 5-8% cement and water. The mix is compressed in a block press and then air-dried. CSEB are strong enough to bear the load of up to four storey buildings, are approx. 25% cheaper than FCB, and do not need to be fired in kilns. This prevents deforestation for firewood and reduces CO2 emissions by around 75% compared to FCB. The special Lego-shape of CSEB allows earthquake and cyclone resistant construction. CSEB is a proven technology that has been utilized for decades in more than 30 countries, including USA, Mexico, India and South Africa.

Building Pioneers follows a two-way approach: bottom-up and top-down.

Bottom-up: Building Pioneers aims to introduce programs in CSEB production and house construction on a grass route level in order to increase disaster resilience of rural communities in Bangladesh. Therefore we train unskilled workers on how to produce and use CSEB for safe and affordable housing. This empowers them to become micro-entrepreneurs to rise from poverty and to become stronger members of the community.

Top-down: Building Pioneers aims to rollout CSEB on a large scale. Therefore we aim to transform FCB kilns into CSEB factories to tackle the severe environmental issues in Bangladesh caused by kilns. Therefore we reach out to policy makers and cement giants to pave the way for this drastic turnaround in the construction industry.

Building Pioneers has successfully completed a pilot project on CSEB production in Bangladesh and is now developing a sustainable business model to promote CSEB on the market.

Building Pioneers has won the Google Impact Challenge, ENORM national social venture competition, have received Social Impact Start stipend and were the Finalists in the RISK Award hosted by Munich Re Foundation.  

You can learn more about Building Pioneers here:

Project Description



Building Pioneers is currently in negotiations with various leading organizations and the Bangladeshi government regarding the introduction of CSEB in Bangladesh. The challenge is to trigger both the supply and the demand side of CSEB.

In order to create a supply of CSEB on a large scale, Building Pioneers aims to transform fired clay brick kilns into CSEB factories. Therefore we need to create an attractive “package” of technical support, purchase guarantees and financial incentives for the brick kiln owners.

In order to create an initial demand for CSEB, Building Pioneers addressed potential large-scale customers like UNDP. UNDP will start the construction of 20,000 houses in 2017 and is interested in using CSEB instead of conventional bricks, as CSEB are disaster resistant and eco-friendly. If all the 20,000 houses were to be built with CSEB, this contract would require about 60,000,000 blocks. One of the challenges here is to reduce the price of CSEB as much as possible, from 8 cents to at least 6 cents per piece. 



Specific recommendations to be developed by the Consulting team are:

1.     Identify ways through which Building Pioneers will be able to reduce each block’s cost by 2 cents.

a.     Identify opportunities of selling CO2 saved emissions to the companies in the West, particularly in Europe.

b.     Identify alternative ways of subsidizing the cost reduction

2.     Develop a long-term business model, outlining financial forecasts and incentives for the local workers to switch production from fired bricks to CSEB

The Building Pioneers team will incorporate your recommendations when operative, tactical and strategic decisions are to be made in the near future.