Industry news from the clay and construction industries

Clay Technology magazine
16 Aug 2016

Natalie Daniels looks at the latest news in the clay and construction industry.

Hot handed help

The makers of the ‘Nori’ brick, Forterra, offered a helping hand to Blackburn-based restoration business Darwen Terracotta and Faience after the company required a selection of unfired bricks to test fire their new kiln. The bricks were used to ensure the kiln was working correctly to fulfill the requirements of complex restoration projects. Because of the extreme kiln temperature, Darwen Terracotta required a durable brick that was able withstand temperatures up to 1,180oC. The ‘Nori’ brick was selected for kiln set-up and testing, as it is renowned for its strength and durability. 

Jon Wilson, Director of Darwen Terracotta, explained, ‘We are incredibly grateful to Forterra for their help and generosity with supplying the bricks. It allowed us to test fire the kiln to ensure it was correctly calibrated so that we can go on to fulfil several large orders.’ 

Darwen Terracotta and Faience projects include the Grayson Perry creation, A House for Essex, the Holburne Museum for Eric Parry, and New Bond Street with Quadrant 3 for the Crown Estate and Dixon Jones Architects. The company now plans to invest in another kiln to meet increasing demand.

Michelmersh launches brick data search

Britain’s brick specialist, Michelmersh Brick, has launched a new website to provide free information on catalogues and certifications of all its products, as well as high resolution Building Information Modelling (BIM) data. The new site will allow builders, contractors and specifiers to connect and share information.

In 2011, the Government’s Construction Strategy mandated that all centrally funded work in the UK is to be undertaken using BIM by 2016. The brick firm has been leading BIM’s adoption and said that, as a vindication of its efforts, the aggregation of BIM files in the UK has seen rapid increases in industry support, acceptance and participation. 

Frank Hanna, joint CEO of Michelmersh, said, ‘Our work will ensure the sector remains competitive and efficient by helping third parties get access to the information and products they need. The company hopes that users researching BIM will consider Michelmersh products.

The website can be found at

Light-emitting cement to illuminate roads

A researcher from Michoacan’s University of San Nicolas Hidalgo, Mexico, has created light-emitting cement with an estimated life duration of 100 years. José Carlos Rubio made the cement that absorbs solar energy and recycles it to light roads, highways and bicycle lanes without the need for electricity.

Rubio focused on modifying the microstructure of the cement to eliminate crystals to form a gel. He explained that common cement is a dust that, when added to water, dissolves like an effervescent pill. ‘In that moment it starts to become a gel, similar to those used for hair styling, but much stronger and resistant at the same time. Some crystal flakes are formed – these are unwanted sub-products in hardened cement.’ The cement is formed of sand, dust or clay. Currently, the cement is available in blue or green, and the light intensity can be regulated to avoid dazzling drivers or cyclist, or unnecessary glare.

Fluorescent materials made from plastic have an average life span of three years because they decay with UV rays. However, Rubio claims this new cement has a much higher resistance and consequently has a much longer life span.

‘I started the project nine years ago after I realised there was nothing similar worldwide. The main issue was that cement is an opaque body that doesn’t allow the pass of light to its interior,’ explained Rubio.

Rubio believes this new material can reach a wide commercial market. ‘By the morning, the buildings, roads, highway or structures made from this new cement can absorb solar energy and emit it during the night for around 12 hours.’ The research is in commercialisation stage, with its inclusion in plaster and other construction products also being explored.