Style and substance with bricks

Clay Technology magazine
11 Jun 2010
Brick slips fitted onto insulation

The past 18 months have been hard for the clay industry, but despite this, sustainability has remained a priority. John Richards, Sales and Marketing Director at Ibstock, shows why brick has retained its popularity.

The economic downturn proved challenging for the building industry, however, there are signs of recovery. We are starting to see opportunities in housebuilding, schools and healthcare.

Also encouraging is the industry’s commitment to sustainable building, which remained strong even through the difficulties of the past 18 months. All levels of the supply chain recognise the need to act and build in a way that protects the surrounding environment and futureproof buildings as standard.

As a result, brick has seen an increase in uptake from builders and developers. This has been helped by the development of products, such as brick slips, which enable the material to be integrated as part of modern methods of construction (MMC) solutions.

Techniques, including pre-formed panels faced with mortared brick slips, are increasingly being used to create façades over timber and steel frame construction. Also, modular pre-constructed brick features such as bays, chimney stacks and arches are becoming commonplace.

Another brick-based MMC solution combines a brick slip with a durable insulation board. Developed by Ibstock, Leicestershire, UK and manufacturer of mineral wool insulation Rockwool, Bridgend, UK, BrickShield allows solid wall constructions to be insulated with an external layer, while maintaining the traditional brick finish.

The system has been designed to renovate and improve the thermal insulation of existing buildings, both domestic and commercial, and can reduce the U-values of a building to 0.25W/mÇK while eliminating cold bridging.

Compliant pavers

Another method that has encouraged the uptake in brick as a sustainable building solution is sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS) compliant pavers. The SUDS keep water on site longer, prevent pollution and allow storage of the water for later use. These systems are designed to mimic the natural movement of water from a building or development, reducing flood risk, improving water quality and often providing attractive features.

Since October 2008, the use of SUDS surface finishes has become a legal requirement in the UK for many driveways joining the public highway. These pavers are designed for bedding on a suitable permeable aggregate substrate and the joints filled with 6-8mm gravel. This design makes them water permeable and, therefore, compliant with legislation such as the planning directive PPS25, the water management element of the Code for Sustainable Homes and Part H of UK Building Regulations.

Sustainable specification

Brick’s sustainability credentials have been confirmed by the BRE’s latest Green Guide to Specification, where it gained the highest possible accreditation, for every external wall
rated that contained brickwork.

The study stated that the choice of external wall specification is probably subject to the widest range of practical, economic and visual considerations compared to other building elements and can account for around 30% of building costs.

Previously an investigation by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Building cost information service the cost of comparative cladding materials (2007) found that against other popular finishes for the external skin, installed brickwork was among the best for price. It compared the installed cost per square metre for brickwork to a string of other external finishes. These included simple fibre cement sheets, different types of rendered blockwork, timber weatherboard, PVC cladding, plain tile cladding, ashlar stonework, and, at the top end of the price range, curtain walling and patent glazing.

Environmental charge

Brick is recyclable and has a high recycled content, which means its sustainability credentials begin from the start of the manufacturing process. For example, bricks which are manufactured in the wrong shape go back into the mixture and imperfect bricks are re-used as aggregate substitute.

Brick makers have also made advances to improve these credentials, such as encouraging better energy efficiency in firing, water recycling and rainwater usage. Other sustainable practices include using methane gas from landfilled former clay quarries for electricity generation, and in some cases proposals for site-specific wind turbines have also been put forward.

The reason for brick’s enduring popularity is that it is a modern method of construction that offers the lowest cost cladding solution, durability and high thermal mass. All levels of the supply chain now recognise the need to build in a way that protects the surrounding environment and futureproof homes as standard.

Further information: Nikki Poyser