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Abeysekera, W V K M and Thorpe, A (1997) Standardisation or non-standardisation? The case of brickwork in Sri Lanka. In: Stephenson, P (Ed.), Proceedings 13th Annual ARCOM Conference, 15-17 September 1997, Cambridge, UK. Association of Researchers in Construction Management, Vol. 1, 173–82.

  • Type: Conference Proceedings
  • Keywords: brick; brickwork; chapparu; chaos; complexity; consensus; standardisation
  • ISBN/ISSN: 0 86 339 759 X
  • URL: http://www.arcom.ac.uk/-docs/proceedings/ar1997-173-182_Abeysekera_and_Thorpe.pdf
  • Abstract:
    'Standardisation' seeks 'single best' solutions to chaotic problems. However, these solutions are essentially 'static'. Moreover, unimplementable and inappropriate standards undermine their general usefulness and raise doubts as to their efficacy especially in an emerging future. Sri Lankan brickwork is characterised by irregular sizes of bricks, brickwork joints and wall widths. These walls which are plastered on both sides are mainly used as infills and partitions except for walls in single and two storey buildings carrying light loads. Internationally, standard wall widths are associated with standard brick sizes with a unique joint size of 10 mm. However, this study shows that 'standard width' walls may be built not necessarily of standard size bricks with a standard joint size of 10 mm, but with an endless variety of brick and joint sizes. This is made possible by varying the size of the wall joint and by a Sri Lankan practice known as 'chapparu' whereby the spaces created by the shortfall of the length or the breadth of a brick is filled by mortar to make the wall surfaces 'flat as a plate'. As such, this study advocates a paradigm shift from the conventional focus of the 'brick and the joint' to the 'wall and its width'. It proposes a methodology for the 'standardisation' of the wall width and decision rules for the 'non-standardisation' of the bed joint, concluding that both approaches are useful. Accordingly, this study calls for a seed change in the mind set of construction managers who specify and manage brickwork operations.