There’s a reason why masonry is one of the oldest construction methods known to man, having been popular for thousands of years. Stone and brick still continue to be hugely popular building materials. Along with its aesthetic appeal and durability, several other benefits of using masonry lead to increased sustainability of any project.
In recent years, the development of LEED certifications have given architects and construction pros a framework to create sustainable, environmentally friendly, and healthier buildings. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and being certified as a LEED building offers a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement.
When working with clients that support sustainability, it’s important to understand how the use of masonry in construction can help with LEED certifications — along with other sustainability initiatives. From origin to design to finished product, find out what makes masonry a smart choice.
Brick made of shale and clay along with other stonework are manufactured from natural materials that are abundant and sustainably mined, oftentimes less than a mile from the point of manufacturing — something that helps reduce their environmental footprint. After areas are mined, the land is restored and vegetation replanted, so the mining site can be reused again.
Brick can also be made with recycled and reused materials. In fact, 60% of brick plants use renewable materials and very little waste is created during the manufacturing process. Stonework doesn’t require baking or heating, and the finished product comes ready to use directly after the extraction; this also lessens environmental impact.
Even innovations in concrete production have made it much more of a sustainable construction material. Several manufacturers are now creating concrete bricks made from recycled materials, with processes that take much less of a toll on the environment and use far less water to produce.
While masonry elements are inherently durable, their use also adds to the durability of the construction project they’re being used to build. Masonry is easier to maintain and stands up to wear and tear the way vinyl and wood elements can’t. Bricks especially retain longevity and can be re-used in future projects.
Masonry also resists common structural risks like fire, termites, water damage, and mold. This is a big perk for larger commercial properties that have complex facility management needs and strict budgets to follow.
Masonry can offer interior walls that don’t require sealants for paints that could contain volatile organic compounds that impact indoor air quality and the health and wellbeing of occupants. Exterior brick and masonry facades don’t need as much upkeep, which can tap into environmental resources (like water and power) required for maintenance.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of using masonry in construction projects is the energy efficiency that it offers. Start by taking a look at the R-value of masonry material like brick and stone. This a great indicator of how well the walls will insulate occupants from the elements, and masonry scores pretty high on that test.
Great insulation doesn’t just keep things comfortable. Thermal mass is another advantage of using brick; it means walls will absorb heat and slowly release it. This allows for consistent heat redistribution, which in turn goes a long way to helping maintain HVAC system performance by not placing too much of a heating or cooling burden on the system during periods of extreme temperature.
Simply using masonry isn’t enough. Project designs need to be optimized to make the most of thermal mass benefits. Make sure factors like building layout and window placement maximize these materials. Take advantage of software that integrates with your current design tech to create a seamless design-build process to give clients a clear picture of the sustainability of their vision-turned-reality.
Masonry itself is an inherently sustainable choice, but taking a strategic approach to use it in construction projects offers even more of an opportunity to lessen environmental impact and improve sustainability. Ensure the products you choose are manufactured in sustainable ways. Choose masonry that doesn’t require much maintenance. And design your building to amplify the energy efficiency of using masonry in the first place.
For construction pros who are looking for a way to show clients how important (and easy) it is to incorporate masonry, consider learning more about MasonryIQ for Revit. With just clicks of a mouse and specifications on the keyboard, a 3D drawing can be turned, manipulated, and polished. Learn more about how it can transform your next project!