26 Jul 2022
Bizerte, Tunisia
Sustainable Construction

Tunisians building their own homes could be the new norm, according to Abdelmalek Ghannem, founder and promoter of sustainable construction company ste SOIB (Societe Industrielle du Bloc). The company creates building blocks from mine site debris, transforming them into “LEGO blocks,” which can be slotted together without using cement.  It’s so easy even families can do it, without the use of a technician!” enthused Ghannem.

For now, the challenge lies in making this innovative technology accessible to more customers. Most Tunisian homeowners still rely on traditional building techniques, which are well-known and trusted – even though they have long become outdated. Ghannem’s business aims to flip this reality, especially at a time when the world is in dire need of sustainable solutions.

Established in 2009 in Ghazala, Tunisia, ste SOIB aims at reducing the various environmental and financial costs of construction, which include energy, water, and time. Ste SOIB’s construction blocks – or as Ghannem describes them, “LEGO blocks” – are sourced from remains of mine sites. The company then recycles these discarded materials into building blocks that fit together without needing cement, making them a handy substitute for conventional red clay bricks.

Nothing is wasted at ste SOIB – whatever is not used is recycled and remolded. The company’s building materials vary in size from 22 cm blocks (used for outer walls) to 6 cm blocks (used for inner walls). “The 22 cm blocks will replace the regular 40 cm double enclosure blocks, which will result in a 20% increase in the house’s footprint,” explained Ghannem. “The family can gain an extra room!” 

The LEGO blocks can be assembled above each other in an interlacing pattern where each block will attach to the other without the use of a binding substance thus making the construction process will become 3x faster. The benefits of SOIB do not stop at the construction stage. “These blocks have excellent thermal resistance,” Ghannem added. “They can also withstand earthquakes – a quality that not all conventional masonry building blocks have.”

Over the years, Ghannem’s dedication and hard work have borne fruit. “Some of the best moments of my life are spent at SOIB”, Ghannem stated, before proceeding to list out the remarkable prizes that SOIB has earned. The company was awarded the best innovative project in 2012 by the German Ownerforums programme, the best innovative project by the Tariik Ennajah TV program in 2012, and the best innovative project for the Prix National for energy efficiency in 2013. 

Yet nobody could accuse Ghannem of resting on his laurels. Now, the vibrant entrepreneur wants to transform ste SOIB into a national and international franchise, which will promote sustainable change throughout the construction industry.

If Ghannem has his way, the future of construction will– perhaps surprisingly –  become child’s play – a playground for adults, that is. On top of ste SOIB’s building blocks, the other essential ingredient is teamwork. Quoting Hassan Fathi, the renowned Egyptian architect, Ghannem concluded: “Two people cannot build a house, but ten people can build ten houses.” 


Learn more about Ste SOIB through the website, Facebook and Instagram.

Photos courtesy of Ste SOIB

Lea Saad is a Lebanese writer, journalist, and researcher based in Beirut. Her work focuses on finding links between different communities in the region.Lea Saad
Child’s play – Tunisian entrepreneur builds sustainable housing with “LEGO blocks” | The Switchers
Ste SOIB Sustainable Construction