Supported by an abundance of local and international research, clay-brick construction is increasingly recognised as a vital component of green building in the ongoing quest to find solutions that eliminate or meaningfully reduce adverse impacts of development on the environment and its occupants.
This is according to Musa Shangase, commercial director of leading brick manufacturer, Corobrik, who says that green buildings share a number of positive attributes with clay-brick masonry.
“Possibly the most significant of these is superior thermal performance. Masonry construction has an inherent high thermal mass, which enables a building to store heat and remain cooler for longer than lightweight structures. It deals efficiently with extremes of temperature in both summer and winter so that the interior remains comfortable.
“This leads to lower lifecycle operating costs in addition to being energy-efficient, resource-efficient and environmentally responsible,” he explains.
Case in point
The red-brick Britten Pears Archive in Suffolk, England, is a good example. This green building has won numerous architectural awards, including the Civic Trust Award for sustainable architecture for its ability to protect and preserve the fragile collection celebrating the work of the renowned composer, without using mechanical temperature control.
A case study by the United Kingdom’s Brick Development Association stated that the aim of the architects and engineers was to create a passive archive, where the internal environment was controlled with minimal energy input. Because the structure required good thermal shielding, they felt that brick offered the ideal solution.
The well-insulated brick walls would play an important part in moderating the temperature, as well as the relative humidity between the outside environment and the valuable objects inside the building.
How does other walling systems compare?
A study conducted by the University of Newcastle in Australia further measured how well the internal surface of various external walling systems responded to the external surface temperature under all-weather parameters. It found that the insulated cavity brick module with its combination of thermal shielding and insulation layers performed best.
The South African context
These thermal benefits are also of huge value in local extreme climatic conditions, but according to Shangase, clay brick has many other benefits that support its green building credentials.
“Its material density provides a natural sound barrier facilitating quiet indoor environments and its mineral properties prevent the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at levels which could impinge on indoor air quality. It also facilitates the absorption and release of moisture from the air to help keep humidity within a 40 to 60% level for healthy living. This, in turn, promotes comfort, wellness and productivity,” he points out.
“Clay brick delivers enduring structural integrity, creating durable and secure buildings,” he concludes.
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Caption Main Image:
The Britten Pears Archive’s well-insulated walls of solid load-bearing brickwork help to moderate the temperature and relative humidity between the outside environment and the valuable materials within.