The Incredible Building Block – The Brick!

The Incredible Building Block – The Brick!

It’s small enough to hold in one hand and when bonded together goes together to form a work of triumph or tragedy; the brick has been used as the building product of choice for over 5000 years.

Made predominantly from pliable clay, add heat and this material is transformed into ‘rock’ (a process called vitrification) that has a compressive strength of up to 1000lbs per square inch. Add certain minerals and compounds and this compressive strength can be increased even further.

Bricks are a durable building and construction material that has been the cornerstone of engineering over the centuries. With good load-bearing properties, high thermal mass and potential low energy impact, the brick’s versatility has been shown in the construction of walls such as the Great Wall of China down to houses, drives, chimneys and arches.

Whilst a brick is strong, fireproof (you only have to see that the Great Fire of London in 1666 stopped wherever a brick building lay in its path) and resistant to the elements, any weakness lies in the mortar-the adhesive sand and cement or sand and lime agent that ‘glues’ the structure together.

The effect Earthquakes have on brick structures.

Brick structures do not like to be shaken, the vibration from earthquakes being responsible for any failure of the building. This failure occurs at the weakest point – the mortar joints. New build construction has developed special seismic brick ties that are fixed to the inner structural core. The brick fa?�ade has the ability to move up and down the building and ‘float’ as an independent unit.

Other advances have been developed to make existing buildings in earthquake prone areas more resilient to damage. New epoxy reinforcing ‘fabric’ can be adhered over a brick face which disperses forces so that the bricks and mortar are held together thus minimising any damage.

Brick as a Modern Methods of Construction

With the requirements to build lighter and stronger buildings more quickly, steel frame and concrete structures are now being employed as the construction method of choice for structural walls and frames with brick being used as an aesthetic decorative cladding product.

With sustainable construction high on the agenda, efforts are being made to reduce the impact brick manufacture has on the environment. Recycled glass and other waste materials have been introduced into the brick manufacturing process and can reduce firing times, temperatures and toxic emissions. At the same time they improve brick strength and durability, as well as reducing the waste going to landfill.

Earth bricks such as adobe and CEBs measure high on the sustainability index as they are made from locally available clay, sand, and water; low technology compression equipment is employed along with solar energy that assists the firing kilns.

Modern methods of brick construction have a much lower sustainability index. The UK brick industry has attempted to reduce the environmental impact of brick manufacture and continues to look at additional ways to increase its energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources.