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The Original “Green” Building Material: Brick

Posted by Art Young, Guest Columnist

Feb 19, 2018 1:27:57 PM

Brick is an authentic building material, made from the earth, for the earth.

One of the hottest topics in the construction industry today is “green buildings.” This is a catch-all phrase that describes construction materials and building techniques which are environmentally friendly. These buildings require less energy to heat and cool and save their owners thousands of dollars over the life of the building. They can withstand the ravages of elements for generations and they are most likely constructed of materials that come from the earth.

While homebuyers of all age groups appreciate the economic benefits of buildings that require less energy to maintain, younger, first time homebuyers – the Millennials – are driving this trend. Demographers have noted that this group has a preference for goods and services which are authentic and sustainable. These are two of the reasons this group favors green homes which are constructed of brick.

The Original Green Building Material

BrickAs a 40-year veteran of Castle Rock’s Acme Brick, Jay Cox knows a thing or two about the benefits of brick construction. As the Midwest District Sales Manager for the company, he has helped hundreds of customers who are interested in energy efficient, green building construction realize their dreams.

“When we think about green buildings, sustainability and the availability of raw materials to manufacture these building materials, we naturally focus on brick,” Cox says. “When I go back to my early days in this company and think about jobs that I sold back then, it’s very rewarding when I see those buildings now. They still have the same finish and are still very attractive.

“As far as ‘green’ is concerned, those buildings never had to be painted and they have not required any further maintenance. I would say brick is one of the original green building materials and this goes back thousands of years.”

How Does Brick Compare to Wood and Synthetic Building Materials?

Today’s homebuyers and their builders have many choices for building materials – from wood to synthetic materials. What are the factors that make brick superior from an environmental and sustainable standpoint?

“Because of its mass and the air space behind it, brick is one of the best performing walls for both residential and commercial structures,” Cox notes. “Because of the mass of brick, the heat on the outside of the building during a hot Denver day takes a substantial amount of time to work its way into the building. By the time this has happened, it is typically the evening and the air is cooling down. It acts as an insulating barrier due to the nature of the product itself.

“When the weather turns colder, this insulation barrier of brick works the opposite way. When the sunshine hits a brick wall, the mass of the brick stores the heat from the sunlight, which helps keep the building warm.

“There is also an advantage of water resistance in a brick wall,” he said. “Brick allows water to drain, as opposed to retaining it, like other building materials. This prevents potential problems such as mold and rot.”

The Low Maintenance of Brick

Unlike wood, stucco or other synthetic materials, buildings which are constructed of brick have almost no maintenance required.

“With a wood or synthetic wall, there is a constant need to paint and/or caulk to maintain its integrity," he says. “This is not necessary with brick construction. Plus, unlike brick, where the moisture is returned outside, wood or synthetic materials absorb that moisture, resulting in a weakening of the structure. Brick is a super protective barrier for home exteriors and commercial buildings.

“As for stucco, there are different types of this building material,” says Cox. “Some are composed of natural elements and some are not. A lot of the stucco we see today is synthetic and it is simply a mesh-like material with a type of cement covering it.

“There is a huge difference between what we see today – synthetic stucco – and the original which was much more durable. The newer stucco is not forgiving and it’s not green.”

The Other Green – The Folding Kind

The economics of brick construction account for another green advantage and this is the folding kind – money saved.

“If you think about the long term aspect of a building, brick offers a much better return on investment," explains Cox. "As we have noted, no painting will ever be required, the costs for maintenance are very low and the energy saving aspects of brick construction are far superior to others.

“Investment in a brick home may be slightly higher than say a painted or siding home, but by the time the exterior wall needs painting or the siding needs to be replaced, the value of the brick construction is realized. With the 100-year guarantee on a brick home, its ‘green’ value is self-evident.”

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