According to a report put out by the World Bank earlier this year, Cambodia has the second-fastest expanding urban area in East Asia.
But as any trip to the outskirts of Phnom Penh quickly reveals, sanitary housing for the cities’ new arrivals are not growing at a comparable pace.
Now, a social enterprise initiative from Hav Kongngy, a 30-year-old Cambodian who spent the past two years in Australia and then in Germany, is hoping to address the disparity.
My Dream Home sells durable, inexpensive and environmentally friendly bricks directly to those looking to construct a building.
The bricks work like Lego: they are interlocking and of a uniform shape, reducing the need for mortar and plaster to keep the structure in place.
“It will be the first social enterprise in Cambodia that focuses on decent homes for low and middle income people, slum settlers and garment workers,” Kongngy said.
A key advantage of the bricks used by My Dream Home is that they can cost as little as half the price of regular bricks: the fact they don’t need to be kiln-fired significantly reduces labour time.
And although assembling the Lego-like blocks requires no construction skills, Kongngy says the bricks are designed to build structures that endure, potentially lasting for more than a hundred years.
Interlocking bricks have proved popular elsewhere in the world, particularly with NGOs working in rural African communities.
Kongngy said that while it had taken him at least four prototypes to get the brick design right, he was now well on his way to his end goal of producing 5,000 bricks per day at his local production facility.
Kongngy said that initial interest has been encouraging.
“We don’t have anyone taking [bricks] to build houses yet, but they’ve built bathrooms, a cafe and some rooms for workers.”