Cuba Turns to Mud Bricks and Lime Blocks Amid Cement Shortage

Facing a prolonged cement shortage, the Cuban government is promoting the use of alternative building materials like mud bricks, lime blocks, and various mortars made from local raw materials for housing construction.

Cuba Turns to Mud Bricks and Lime Blocks Amid Cement Shortage
Photo by Esteban Castle / Unsplash

In response to the ongoing cement shortage in Cuba, the government is encouraging the construction of homes using traditional and locally sourced materials. According to the state-run newspaper Granma, this includes mud bricks, blocks made from lime, and both fine and coarse mortars produced with different local raw materials. This move comes as many Cubans, like Teresa Morales from Santa Clara, express their preference for conventional cement and concrete blocks, highlighting the gap between available resources and the materials traditionally proven for construction.

The shortage of cement, steel, and fuel has halted the operation of cement factories, contributing to the repeated failures in meeting the country's housing construction program targets. The situation is dire for thousands of Cubans who have lost their homes to cyclones and other natural disasters or live in vulnerable conditions, awaiting a long-promised solution for decent housing.

The Local Construction Materials Production Company, with units in all 13 municipalities of Villa Clara province, is tasked with significantly increasing the production of mud bricks, a practice rooted in the region's pottery tradition. Additionally, the company produces various additives, including mortars made from lime and other types of clays, as part of efforts to offer sustainable and affordable construction solutions.

Despite some viewing the use of lime in construction as anachronistic, national director Manuel Tomás Vázquez Enríquez reminds that lime has been a durable building material for centuries, as evidenced by Roman architecture. Carlos Manuel Fariñas, director of the MIPYME Ingeniomat, explained that lime-based blocks, developed over two years, could be used for partition walls in homes, reserving concrete blocks for structures requiring greater strength.

The focus on alternative building materials starkly contrasts with the government's investment in tourist hotel construction, which received a quarter of the state's investment in the first half of 2023, despite the sector's low occupancy rates. The government's admission of failing to meet housing construction targets in 2023 underscores the challenges faced by tens of thousands of Cubans, attributed to inefficient work methods and a lack of materials. By October, only 13,000 housing units were completed, just 54% of the planned target.

This situation highlights the broader crisis in Cuban society, with the official narrative often reverting to triumphalism and justifying shortages. Yet, the government insists that surrendering to adversity is not an option, emphasizing the role of science in finding alternatives to overcome these challenges.

Source: Diario de Cuba