Brick industry makes its case for sustainability

August 01, 2004 |

One of the world's oldest building materials may also be one of the "greenest," according to a new brochure from the Brick Industry Association, Reston, Va.

The 11-page brochure details the environmental qualities of brick — including long life cycle, low embodied energy, energy efficiency, minimal waste, and recyclability — and compares the material with other wall systems.

A recent study by the National Brick Research Center at Clemson University shows that brick not only has the longest estimated life cycle (100 years) of comparable wall systems (see chart), but it also produces less waste and is 100% recyclable (excluding the mortar, which is 40% recyclable).

Moreover, the actual embodied energy of brick — the energy required to mine, manufacture, and transport the material — is approximately 4,000 BTUs per pound, which is less than that of concrete, glass, steel, aluminum, and wood, according to the brochure.

The brochure also details areas where brick can contribute to LEED certification. These include: energy performance (brick construction has a high insulating value and high thermal mass); construction waste management; resource reuse; recycled content; and local/regional materials (clay and shale, the raw materials of brick, are available regionally).

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Cladding life-cycle analysis

Basic data Brick masonry Block masonry Fiber cement Vinyl siding EIFS
Source: National Brick Research Center, Clemson University; Brick Industry Association

Warranty 100 years 50 years 50 years 50 years 5 years
Weight/sf 35.5 lb. 42.8 lb. 2.3 lb. 0.5 lb. 1.24 lb.
Energy, mining & manufacturing Recycling & energy kWh/sf/yr. Recycling: Brick 100% Mortar 40% Recycling: 80% Recycling: 0% Recycling: 80% Recycling: 0%
Energy: 0.252 Energy: 0.228 Energy: 0.328 Energy: 0.210 Energy: 5.48
Pollution Water & air emissions lb./sf/yr. 0.011 0.005 0.026 0.001 0.023
Distribution energy Avg. distance miles & net energy kWh/sf/yr. 175 miles 0.004 100 miles 0.004 365 miles 0.146 310 miles 0.001 300 miles 0.1893
Waste/depletion lb./sf/yr. 0.108 0.203 0.048 0.4604 0.828

Block the Leak

The Kansas City (Mo.) Power and Light (KCPL) Johnson County Services Center was designed by local firm Helix Architecture & Design using concrete blocks because of its cost effectiveness and quick installation time, as the project had an approaching deadline. Because concrete block is permeable, the BlockNet drainage system was installed around the entire perimeter of the building to channel water out of the building's exterior walls and through the integrated drainage tabs. The system is a 3 3/8-inch deep stainless steel drainage strip with integrated drip edge, adhered drainage mesh and rear water dam, plus a separate 7×7-inch vertical mesh element. When water enters the wall, it flows down the inside face of the block, through the vertical mesh piece and onto horizontal stainless steel flashing, and out the building. The system was installed in the KCPL in just 15 minutes. General contracting services were provided by local firm Fogel Anderson. The masonry contractor was local firm Diaz Construction.

Mortar Net.

Reader Service No. 205

Color the Walls with Brick

Bricks for interior and exterior walls, floors, paths, and walkways are available in various glazed colors and are made with kiln-fired clay that won't discolor or fade, says the maker. ThinkBricks are 5/8-inch thin veneer bricks and are one-eighth the width of standard brick. Premixed mortar mastic can be used for most installations.

Castaic Brick.

Reader Service No. 208

Re-set Masonry

Wall tie used to stabilize masonry in a renovation project is performed in a dry set procedure. Helical Wall Ties work by driving a stainless steel tie through the masonry, via a small pilot hole that recesses into the face of the masonry. Wall ties are engineered from stainless steel, which helps them withstand wind loadings, while also allowing sufficient flexibility to accommodate normal wall movement. Wall tiles are available in 4.5-mm, 6.0-mm, 8.0-mm and 10.0-mm diameters. Procedure has been used in high-rise and commercial applications throughout the world, says the maker.


Reader Service No. 204

Is that Brick?

Lightweight stone installs like brick, offering its same durability, but at less expense, says its maker. Three inches thick, the Liberty Classic Stone weighs 18 lb. per square foot, compared to 45 lb. for quarried stone. The stone comes with a 30-year limited warranty. Available in natural, mist, copper, autumn, smoke, and marble colors.

Boral Bricks, Inc.

Reader Service No. 206

Magic Bricks

Automatic brick dimensioning program allows Building Team members to calculate exact dimensions of a brick building. Delphi-cad analyzes the profile of the building and returns a fully hatched, insulated, and dimensioned cavity wall plans, true to the brick dimensions. The program works with any CAD package and any size bricks, saving time for designers.

Delphi Design.

Reader Service No. 207

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