Laterite is rich in iron and aluminium. With its ability to keep out the weather, laterite houses are said to be cool in summer and warm in winter.
Many villages where dozens of laterite houses can be found in Quang Ngai:
People in some villages in Quang Ngai Province prefer building houses with laterite for its ability to keep out the weather.
To the south of Binh Son District are many villages where dozens of laterite houses can be found. The biggest and oldest building is the communal house at An Loc Village, Binh Tri Commune.
Doan Van Bong, 46, of Van Tuong Village said since his young age he saw his father and grandfather build laterite houses. “Back then our village had laterite. We made it into bricks to build wells and houses.”
Cement was not common then, but the laterite bricks could be bonded together without it.
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A pillar supporting the roof of a communal house in Binh Tri is placed on a laterite rock.
The house was built before 1975 with money and labor contributed by locals, Nguyen Cong Cung, the commune’s deputy leader, said.
It has since been renovated many times. Despite occasional talk about razing it and building a new communal house, the old one has been preserved.
Nguyen Thi Tuu, 86, of Van Tuong Village, Binh Hai Commune, Binh Son District, lives in a laterite house built in the 1980s.
“When my children built as new house, they kept the laterite house since it was still good,” Tuu said.
The laterite house was converted into a kitchen while the family lives in a concrete house next to it.
Nguyen Thi Thang of Binh Hai Commune cooks in the laterite kitchen.
Van Tuong Village has the largest number of laterite houses in Quang Ngai Province. Almost every household in the village has managed to keep at least one laterite construction, often a wall or a well.
A fence made from laterite in a house in Van Tuong Village.
Children draw water from a 100-year-old laterite well.
Laterite is said to help purify water, which explains the large number of laterite wells here.
Doan Van Bong, a Van Tuong Village local, said: “This is a [laterite] tomb of a rich farmer. Back then, only rich men could afford tombs like this.”
Now laterite is not as common as before, with only a few constructions left. One of the few intact laterite houses in Van Tuong belongs to Nguyen Hong Son. However, he plans to demolish the structure to build a new house using modern materials.
Besides Binh Son District, laterite is also found in the east of Mo Duc District.
Nguyen Tam, 67, of Duc Hiep Commune, Mo Duc District, is one of the last laterite-brick makers here. He has been doing this for 50 years.
However, as laterite becomes less common as a building material, Tam only gets orders these days from neighbouring provinces for building and decorating cafes and churches.
Laterite is rich in iron and aluminium, and is rusty red from high iron oxide content. With its ability to keep out the weather, laterite houses are said to be cool in summer and warm in winter.