Innovation — 30 March 2015

Rowe Construction part of the Rowe group of companies, that played a huge part in the re-design and construction of the SA-VSBK shafts at Langkloof Bricks has announced that the next generation of VSBK designs that affords lower construction time and cost of ownership by as much as 30%, are now complete.

This announcement comes just nine months after the inauguration of the innovative Vertical Shaft Brick Kilns (VSBK) at Langkloof Bricks owned by the Blake family in Jeffrey’s Bay, where the modifications as implemented by Rowe Construction has resulted in the new SA-VSBK shafts exceeding expectations at every turn.

The facilitation, implementation, construction and refinement of the technology were co-coordinated by the SA-VSBK project, with Langkloof Bricks as the first South African partner on the SA-VSBK Project, and with Rowe Construction appointed as the design engineering consultant on the company’s behalf.

Jez Rowe, Managing Director of Rowe Construction and Rowe Design & Consulting, said, “The existing VSBK designs had been made available as part of the open source technology by the Swiss Development Corporation (SDC). However, the initial side by side design did not meet the requirements of a large commercial brick plant like Langkloof Bricks and so the opportunity to enhance those designs presented itself. These improvements have been met with huge success and will be made available to future clay brick producers interested in VSBK technology.”

To maximise on production space, Langkloof Bricks opted to build a back-to-back six shaft VSBK kiln, as opposed to the linear design. Rowe says, “Precision engineering, CAD modelling and the efficiencies achieved by constructing these SA-VSBK kilns with the back to back concept, allowed for significant enhancements to be made to the original design, which in turn improved the performance of the SA-VSBK shafts at Langkloof Bricks.”

“Rowe Design & Consulting is currently engaged with advanced computer simulation of thermal dynamics and air flows for our third generation VSBK design to ensure additional fuel and energy recovery savings. This will afford the benefits of lowering CO2 emissions and particulate matter even further than the already excellent results achieved by this technology. With our next generation design we will be able to bring to market the most energy efficient method of firing clay bricks available globally” said Rowe.

According to Rowe, the construction of the SA-VSBK Shafts allowed for more than 38 people from the Jeffrey’s Bay community to be employed. All were trained on using state-of-the-art construction tools and modern building techniques. Laser measuring and positioning systems were applied to reduce the overall construction time, while also providing a high degree of accuracy down to 0.5mm, with diamond drilling techniques used to assist with the placement of sensor positioning systems.

“By investing in the best tools, we were able to dramatically reduce the amount of time spent on site. New skills were developed with the refractory masonry, where overall accuracy of the shaft had to be within 2mm in any direction. This approach also encompassed the design of the jigs and fixtures to ensure essential accuracy,” said Rowe.

Rowe concluded, “With the roll out of the modular third generation VSBK kilns at Langkloof Bricks this year, we expect to be extremely busy establishing these new kilns throughout South Africa and then on a global scale. Yet again South Africa is at the forefront of establishing greener technology, further ensuring our commitment to the environment and lowering our reliance on fossil fuels.”

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