KOTA KINABALU, March 31 (Bernama) -- It is a low-cost house like any otherin Sabah but this single-storey building located in the campus ofUniversiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) here is unique.
For one thing, the room temperature of the house -- which has twobedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a study, a toilet and a shower -- islower by about two degrees
MY OIL PALM HOUSE... University Malaysia Sabah's (UMS) School ofEngineering and Information Technology Associate Prof Dr Md Abdul Mannan,who invented hollow blocks from s oil palm shells, stands next to a modelhouse at UMS built from such blocks in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Pix: JacksonSawatan
But that's only a minor difference. The main feature is that the house isbuilt with hollow blocks shaped from oil palm shell solid wastes -- amaterial derived after lengthy research that even landed a gold medal andwhich is set to revolutionise the construction industry in the country.
The blocks are the invention of Dr Md Abdul Mannan, associate professor atthe UMS School of Engineering and Information Technology, and hence thereason for the location of the model house at the university's campus inTeluk Likas, here.
Apart from offering a form of construction material that is cheaper thanclay bricks but equally as durable, the oil palm shell hollow blocks canhelp the oil palm industry with a solution to the disposal of its solidwastes in a manner less detrimental to the environment.
More than 2.6 million hectares in Malaysia come under oil palm, and aboutone million of this acreage is in Sabah. The plantations have the capacityto produce oil palm shell solid wastes of over three million tonnesannually.
Dr Mannan, 43, whose invention won a gold medal at the 32nd InternationalExhibition of Inventions in Geneva, Switzerland, last year, said there isa huge commercial potential to be tapped from agricultural solid wastes,especially oil palm shell.
"Oil palm shell can be used as the coarse aggregate in concrete for theconstruction industry ... this is one of the promising solutions to thesolid wastes problem," he told Bernama Thursday.
Explaining his invention, he said the disposed oil palm shells had toundergo three stages of quality improvement that begins with pre-treatingfor impurities and micro-organisms followed by water proofing and bondingbefore they are mixed with other materials. The hollow blocks produced outof the mix are made in such a way that they have 32 per cent void in them,he said.
Dr Mannan said the blocks are much lighter as well as cheaper than theconventional bricks and building blocks.
Elaborating on the model house, he said tests conducted there and at twoconventional houses in Kota Kinabalu showed that the room temperature ofthe model house was cooler by about two degrees.
"This is due to the void inside the blocks that lessens the thermalconductivity. It prevents the heat from going inside the house and, at thesame time, traps the cool air within," said Dr Mannan, who was assisted inthe UMS project by a team of researchers and lecturers.
This would provide thermally comfortable walls for a low-cost house andtherefore minimise electricity usage for fan or air-conditioning, andsince the material is lighter than conventional clay bricks, the amountspent to reinforce the foundation would also be less, he said.
Not only the walls of the model house are constructed from oil palmshells. Other material such as the mosaic tiles as well as the pavementare also constructed with oil palm wastes.
According to Dr Mannan, the model house needed about 2,400 blocks toconstruct and each block, which is equivalent to about 6.5 pieces of claybricks, cost only about RM1.
The hollow blocks are an environment-friendly product, which does not poseany health hazard, he said.
He admitted that despite its huge potential, the new product has yet to bedeveloped commercially.
"However, inquiries have begun to come in after the success in Geneva lastyear. Several companies have expressed their intention to know more aboutthe product and to use it in their projects," he said.