Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA) has released new guidelines for using adobe (mud) bricks known as rukarakara, aimed at improving their standards and preventing disasters in the housing sector. The guidelines replace those issued in August 2019. Claver Reverien Nzapfakumunsi, the Building Technology Application and Scrutiny Engineer at Rwanda Housing Authority, told The New Times that the fresh rules, which have to be followed starting from September 20, 2022, are founded on the Adobe bricks standards number 484:2022 of 11/03/ 2022. “The guidelines show a clear picture of how to manufacture Adobe bricks and the secure way to use them in construction to avoid disasters,” he said. The guidelines, whose copy the engineer shared with The New Times, say that the improved version of the bricks will also trigger, “the increase in decent affordable houses.” Officials authorised the use of mud bricks to construct houses in a bid to ease home ownership especially for low-income earners. Rwanda needs 5.5 million housing units up from 2.5 million housing units in 2019 to accommodate an estimated 22 million people in 2050, according to Rwanda Housing Authority. It says that this requires building at least 150,000 housing units every year to satisfy the demand. According to a recent study, the City of Kigali needs 310,000 new housing units by the year 2032 or around 20,700 affordable housing units annually. However, less than 1,000 housing units are delivered every year. “Rukarakara bricks are allowed to be used in constructing residential houses that are located on an area which is not more than 200 square metres in residential zones according to master plans of both rural and urban areas,” he said, adding that the houses must not have storeys and basements. Commercial buildings, churches and mosques are not allowed to be constructed using rukarakara both in rural and urban areas, RHA said. According to the guidelines, the district or Kigali city can identify areas where Rukarakara bricks are not allowed in constructing residential houses. The housing authority explains that all those in need of using these bricks must request construction permits. The construction permits are provided by sectors in rural areas and One Stop Centres in districts located in cities. In case of renovating houses, only those that were previously constructed with Rukarakara bricks can use these bricks while renovating. Standards needed for rukarakara bricks The recommended standards for rukarakara bricks include height of between 20- and 30-centimeters and width of between 20 and 25 centimetres as well as between 10 and 15 centimetres of verticality. Every house to be constructed with rukarakara bricks must have a foundation made of stones built using cement and sand according to the rules. The foundation must also have 40 centimetres of depth and 20 centimetres of height from above the soil. To manufacture the bricks, only clay and laterite soil mixed with other materials are allowed. Mandatory cooperatives for builders According to the new guidelines, in order to improve construction of residential houses made of rukarakara bricks, all builders have to be grouped in associations. “The builders’ associations should sign agreements with districts. Every builder must be in the association with a card showing that they were trained. No builder will be allowed to construct a residential house using rukarakara bricks without proof that they were trained and that they are members of builders’ associations,” the new rules explain. The housing authority has also ordered monthly reports showing the number of houses constructed using these bricks.