Frequently Asked Questions

What are masonry planning policies?

In Texas, municipalities have the lawful right to adopt policies that require the use of masonry products on a certain percentage of exterior walls on a building or house.

What is considered masonry material?

Conventional masonry materials include: brick, concrete block, natural and cut stone, and traditional cementitious stucco that is applied over a concrete masonry base. “Masonry” is defined by the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) as “The type of construction made up of masonry units laid with mortar, grout or other methods of joining.” The mere presence of cement in a building material does not make it masonry or concrete. Take fiber cement board for example: In the ASTM table of Contents, Section 4 “Construction”, “Masonry” and “Fiber Reinforced Cement Products” are listed separately. Fiber cement board is not considered a masonry product, but a siding. It is installed by nailing to wood framing, much like vinyl, aluminum, and other siding products. Most importantly, in Texas where we have adopted the International Building and Residential Codes statewide, fiber cement siding does not qualify as a masonry product!

Q. What are the types of masonry planning policies?

Masonry planning policies can take many forms, depending on governmental structure and specific community needs and desires. The most popular types include:

  • Zoning Ordinances that specify a certain percentage of brick or masonry for a variety of land uses. These ordinances are the most effective and clear method for mandating a masonry planning policy – creating an even playing field for builders and developers.
  • Overlay Districts that mandate the use of masonry in a defined area of a community such as corridors and downtown districts.
  • Corridor Guidelines that govern the appearance of land development along specified corridors.
  • Planned Unit Developments that mandate the aesthetics and durability of masonry for smaller-scale development within a larger community.
  • Form-Based Codes that primarily specify the physical form of buildings and streets and are increasingly used to mandate architectural standards and the use of high quality materials, like masonry
  • Use-Based Codes which eliminate low-quality, disposable construction methods specific to uses such as multi-family construction, hotels, big box retail, or self-storage facilities.
  • Building Code Amendments which raise the standard of construction in a community from the minimum guidelines provided by building codes.
  • Financial Incentives such as density bonuses in subdivisions and tax abatement that favor high quality, long lasting development resulting from the use of brick and masonry.

 

Q. Are there masonry planning policies available to communities that do not have zoning?

Yes. Even in communities without zoning may enact some form of masonry planning policy. Cities such as these may have the power to adopt corridor land use development standards which apply only to development along specified corridors, or use-based codes addressing construction for specific uses such as multi-family construction, big box retail, hotels or self-storage facilities. They may also raise the minimum standard of construction throughout their city through building code amendments or offer incentives through density bonuses tied to their subdivisions standards or even tax abatement for projects constructed of masonry.

Q. Don’t these types of policies discourage investment?

No. These policies actually encourage quality development and greater investment. Business owners may rest assured that their investment will remain protected from the threat of substandard construction and urban blight on adjacent properties.

Q. How do they affect property values?

Masonry planning policies lead to increased property values, which increases and maintains a healthy tax base and enhances the overall fiscal health of the community.

Q. What about the homeowner?

When it comes to masonry planning policies, the homeowner is the winner. They save on electric and gas bills, insurance premiums and home maintenance. The value of their home will continue to appreciate and will not be dragged down by poorly maintained homes or businesses around it. Their family will be sheltered from windblown debris and fire spread. Their community will continue to thrive. And their house will continue to stand and provide a home for themselves and future generations.

Q. Doesn’t masonry greatly increase the cost of a business?

No. Commercial construction demands quality; masonry performs. The cost increase, which may range from 5-15 percent, depending on many variables, isn’t a significant issue to most businesses with plans to build. The term “Brick and Mortar” is part of our vocabulary for a reason. That reason is that bricks, and other masonry products, along with mortar are synonymous with quality, performance, attractiveness and permanence. Businesses strive to communicate these qualities to their customers.

Q. Is masonry really worth the cost increase?

Definitely! Businesses open and businesses close every day. While no one wants to think of the consequences of a business ceasing its operations, the truth is, most storefronts out-live the original business occupying the commercial space. Eventually, that structure will be adapted to another tenant. The city that recognizes this fact and plans for the inevitable will be the city with attractive, high-quality storefronts and vibrant businesses. Customers frequent a business because it serves their needs. So too, masonry is the choice for most businesses, because it serves their needs. It is also a proven fact that vacant masonry commercial buildings stay vacant for shorter periods than relative non-masonry buildings and are more desirable for adaptive reuse.

Q. Doesn’t masonry greatly increase the cost of a home?

No. A three-sided brick home cost on average only 4 1/2 percent more than the same home clad in siding. However, these initial costs are more than offset by homeowner savings in maintenance costs and lower insurance rates. And according to the Marshall and Swift Residential Cost Handbook, which is used by appraisers, an all-brick home appreciates at an average rate of 6 percent immediately after it is built.

Q. But even a small percentage increase in the cost of a new home could make that home unaffordable for some buyers. Is masonry really worth it?

Yes, it is really worth it. Buyers who have to stretch to purchase a home are usually the folks least able to spend money maintaining it. Therefore, lower cost housing should be built to withstand, with little or no upkeep. Brick and stone never need repainting, and they won’t crack, rust, peel, corrode, melt, buckle, warp, bend or dent like other siding materials. The most affordable house in the long run is a solid masonry structure. The homebuyer can amortize the additional cost over the life of the mortgage, and will probably earn back the extra cost in the first five to seven years due to lower home maintenance and insurance costs.

Q. What about the availability of qualified masons?

While this may be a valid concern in some areas of the United States, the Southwest region has an adequate masonry work-force.

Q. What about the stucco systems that are applied over rigid insulation? Aren’t these also considered masonry?

Absolutely not. These systems are generically referred to as External Insulation and Finish System or EIFS. These types of synthetic stucco have none of the advantages of true masonry, such as: near zero maintenance, high durability and impact resistance, noise reduction for the interior, lower insurance costs, and low environmental impact.

Q. Won’t mandating the use of masonry tie the designer’s hands? Won’t all neighborhoods and businesses begin to look the same?

Masonry is one of the most versatile building materials available. Over 70 percent of the buildings in the world are built of masonry. With its many shapes, colors, and types masonry can achieve any architectural effect imaginable and combines beautifully with every other exterior material. Natural stone, such as flagstone, limestone, and granite or river rock have been used to create a number of rustic looks. Manufactured stone is becoming more consistent in its quality and appearance, and can be very economical and easy to work with due to the modular nature and regular dimensions of the product. Cementitious stucco, which usually is used in conjunction with a masonry backup, offers great design versatility, too. Concrete block is very economical, may double as both the load-bearing structure and exterior finish in buildings, and now comes in hundreds of colors and decorative finishes.

Q. Masonry is usually a poor insulator. Won’t adding a masonry veneer actually increase the energy used to heat or cool a home or business?

No. In fact, according to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), masonry construction requires less insulation than other building systems because of its thermal mass. Because of its heavy weight, masonry is slow to absorb or lose heat, reducing peak loads on heating and cooling systems. Low-mass walls, such as those with wood framing and siding, are unable to store energy in the wall. That leads to rapid temperature changes inside the home, and the need for additional heat or air conditioning. Simply put, masonry homes keep you cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Simply adding brick veneer to a wall may result in energy savings as high as 35%. (Construction Technology Laboratories, Skokie, Illinois)