January 19th 2021
In recent years the environment has become a hot button issue.
Collectively there are many things we can and must do, to limit the effects of climate change.
If you're planning a new build or extension, or even a fully-fledged housing development, the impact you have on the environment may be something you consider.
You may be wondering, are bricks actually all that environmentally friendly?
After all, this building material is about as old as they come. Are there not more sustainable building materials out there?
And if there is, do the benefits (like how great they look!) still outweigh the potential damage caused?
We've got the answers below. Spoiler: Bricks are actually pretty eco-friendly!
If you want the most sustainable bricks on the market, we can help with that. Get in touch and we'll help you find them.
Of course, as with any kind of manufacturing, bricks have some negative impact on the environment.
For example, mass brick firing does create emissions, which put excess CO~2~ into the atmosphere as well as some carbon monoxide and particulates as well. This is typical wherever fuel is burning.
Some impact on the local environment may be caused by the mining of the raw materials required to manufacture brick.
Even in an established mine, there will be emissions and pollution from heavy trucks and machinery.
Waste from the mining process may also pollute water nearby and work its way into streams and rivers. Generally though, this is all regulated in modern clay mining.
And despite all this...
For the most part bricks are a pretty environmentally friendly material. Here's a few reasons why.
The sheer durability of bricks and therefore their longevity are a big factor.
Sure, a house worth of bricks may have caused some CO~2~ emissions but that building will likely stay in a similar condition for many years to come.
Brickwork is so stable and the material itself durable to all weather, that once it's up, it shouldn't need replacing, reducing the ongoing effect on the environment.
Some research has shown that brick structures can have a lifespan of 500 years or more!
They rarely if ever need significant maintenance and are resistant to mould and fungus. The maintenance required is certainly a lot less than a building with a wood exterior, which would require a fresh coat of paint every year in some environments.
Even if a brick building does come to the end of its life for whatever reason, in most cases it won't be the end of the brick's life.
There is a huge market for reclaimed brick. This is brick that has already been used, had the mortar removed and is ready to be used again in another building.
We've mentioned the benefits of reclaimed bricks before.
So, the lifecycle of the brick more than justifies any resources spent in creating it.
You know how we said that clay mining can have some negative impact on the environment. Well, it's not all that bad.
The clay used to create bricks is generally pretty easy to get hold of. Clay is a surface level soil and so will require pretty shallow and non-intensive digging.
In most cases a thorough assessment of the ground will take place prior to mining to ensure no major disturbance to the surrounding environment takes place.
Clay is also a fairly abundant resource. There's plenty of it all over the face of the earth, so it's not like other ground sourced minerals, that require significant effort and money to get hold of.
It's mud at the end of the day. And it's everywhere.
Although there are some things about the manufacturing process which cannot be changed there are some major changes that have taken place in the brick industry.
Whilst the biggest polluter in the process would be the firing kilns, these days they are often fuelled by natural gases. This means fossil fuels aren't being used as much.
The kilns are also far more efficient than they used to be, requiring less energy to fire more bricks.
Another big factor we haven't mentioned is how brickwork is very energy efficient. We reckon this is a topic for another post though so look out for that in the future.
Overall, brick is a pretty sustainable option when it comes to building materials.
It's long lasting, uses abundant natural resources, can be reused and is usually produced as efficiently as possible.
There are more eco-friendly building methods being developed of course such as modular housing but then again, they don't look as good as brick.
When it comes to building or adding to your own home, there are some more important considerations than it simply being eco-friendly. The most important thing for most people we imagine is that it looks good and keeps them warm and dry.
The building material that achieves this best is brick. So, it's good news that it's also pretty good for the environment!
Now that that question's answered, if you're in need of bricks, why not get us on board to find the most sustainable bricks on the market.