Sustainable Communities Begin with Masonry

Long before ‘LEED’ or ‘Green Building’ became part of our everyday language, masonry was an integral part of sustainable communities in Texas. Brick and stone structures built more than a thousand years ago in Europe are still in use today, and our own country’s architectural heritage was built, brick by brick, by early colonists. The extended useful life of buildings constructed of masonry reduces the cycles of development and redevelopment, dilapidation and renovation, promoting vibrant sustainable communities.

Masonry as a Green Building Material

Traditional masonry materials include a wide range of materials, such as brick, concrete masonry units, natural and cut stone. Each product within this class of materials makes unique contributions to sustainable design. These may include low emissions manufacturing, high percentages of recycled content, material re-use, acoustical comfort, etc. As a product class, you can count on the fact that they will contribute to sustainable design in the areas of durability, life-cycle assessment, Energy efficiency and regional materials.

Durability

According to a recent survey commissioned by PPG Industries, architects say durability is the most important attribute for a green building product. Non-durable building components, especially in the building’s envelope, result in high life cycle costs due to maintenance, repair and premature replacement. As a building product class, masonry has proven track record for durability. Masonry withstands the elements, can withstand severe wind and weather, and requires little or no maintenance, making it the natural choice for sustainable design.

Life-Cycle Assessment

While the scale for life-cycle assessment ends at 100 years, most masonry products far exceed that expectation. Simply put, masonry stands the test of time. The Ziggurat at Ur, a Mesopotamian temple-tower made of fired clay brick between 2113 - 2095 BC stands today, very well preserved. The famous Great Wall of China, constructed around 210 BC, is made of 3,873,000,000 individual bricks. In this country, one of the more famous historic brick buildings is Independence Hall built in Philadelphia in the 1700s. And in Texas, many of our oldest schools, courthouses, and city halls were constructed of masonry. Those same structures continue to house our school children and serve as a safe haven for residents in times of natural disasters.

Energy Efficiency

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 heavy weight, also known as thermal mass, brick and other masonry products are slow to absorb and disburse heat, reducing peak loads on heating and cooling systems. Low-mass walls, such as those with wood framing and lap-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 adding brick veneer to a wall may result in energy savings as high as 35%. (Construction Technology Laboratories, Skokie, Illinois)

Regional Materials

Many exterior products cannot lay claim to the ‘Made in Texas’ stamp of approval. In the case of masonry, it is simply not the case. In fact, locally produced brick and CMU, and locally mined stone make up the lion’s share of masonry products sold in the Texas market. If it is local you want, you need not look much further than masonry. Local production of masonry products also means it is providing employment for Texans right here at home.