by Steve Laible on February 5, 2016
Why Green Building and Masonry Are a Natural Fit
When we think of green building concepts, we tend to envision modern day materials and techniques that satisfy green rating requirements such as Green Globes and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Because we relate green building with modern day materials and techniques, it tends to escape our minds that age-old masonry is green building. Stone has been used as a building material since the dawn of time. Bricks date back 9,500 years or so. And concrete dates back 8,500 years or so.
There are a number of ways in which masonry has less of an impact on the environment than many modern day building materials.
Reducing the Demand for New Materials
One of the most obvious ways that masonry is considered green building is because of its durability and longevity. Masonry has been around since the creation of buildings themselves. Some structures are hundreds of years old and still standing, and some are thousands of years old and still standing (i.e. the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China, castles and other structures in Europe and the Mid-East).
Compared to wood, masonry structures last much longer. Fewer structures need to be repaired and rebuilt when they are built with masonry materials instead of lumber. This reduces the demand for lumber, and therefore fewer trees are cut down.
Masonry structures also require less maintenance over the course of their lives compared to wood structures. Additionally, they do not need to be painted or wrapped in vinyl siding, lessening the demand for petrochemical products.
Unfortunately, in many green rating systems, durability and longevity have not been given as much consideration as how recyclable a material is. Reducing the use of scarce resources should be given just as much consideration as the ability of a resource to be recycled. Masonry materials not only reduce the need for lumber and petrochemicals, but they can also be recycled into aggregated and other new masonry materials.
Other reasons masonry materials are considered green building materials include:
- Masonry materials have better insulating properties than wood-framed structures. This keeps masonry buildings naturally warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, thereby reducing energy costs.
- The materials used to make concrete and bricks are naturally abundant.
- There is almost no waste when manufacturing bricks and concrete.
- Less energy is used to manufacture concrete and bricks than it does to manufacture products like steel.
- Wood for lumber tends to travel long distances before it arrives at its final destination. Concrete, however, tends to be manufactured locally, reducing the need for transportation.
- Concrete and brick masonry does not require as much specialized equipment to be installed compared to dimensional lumber and steel.
- Masonry materials are more mold, termite, and fire resistant than lumber. Lower insurance rates for masonry buildings are a result of these safety features.
Incorporating Masonry in Today’s Modern Sustainable Design
Today, there are many new masonry products that have become common in modern masonry architecture, such as cast stone, textured concrete block, and manufactured stone veneers. Combinations of brick and these new masonry products have become an attractive and appealing modern look for today’s building structures.
Masonry continues to be a common building material because of its long lasting and maintenance-free characteristics, and as time goes on, its natural environmentally friendly features will continue to make masonry materials a popular choice.