An investigation by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) found that, against a line-up of popular finishes for the external skin, installed brickwork beat just about all of them on price.
What the RICS investigation showed is that you can have such qualities, without paying over-the-top prices. It analysed a wide range of data, from major price books to bills of quantities for live projects submitted to them last year. The projects, which covered a selection from across the UK, ranged in value from £356,000 to £10.5 million.
The study compared the installed cost per square metre for brickwork against a string of rival external finishes. These included simple fibre cement sheets, different types of rendered blockwork, timber weatherboard, PVC cladding, plain tile cladding, ashlar stonework, and, at the top end of the price range, curtain walling and patent glazing.
Some of the highlights were:
According to the RICS, the materials that came in for less than brickwork included options with a lower life expectancy or high life cycle costs, such as single fibre cement sheeting and painted render. In its conclusion, the RICS notes: ‘Brick is a competitive option for the external skin. Most of the options that are less expensive in the study fall within the range of available facing bricks.’
Compare that with, say the price for timber, which rose nearly one third for softwood last year, thanks to surging demand in Asia, or glazed cladding, which has been hit by soaring costs for glass, aluminium and stainless steel.
Moreover, brick scores on ‘cost in use.’ With reasonable maintenance a brick wall will last indefinitely. Repointing might be necessary after 70 years but apart from that no regular maintenance is required. Moreover brickwork weathers gracefully and mellows with age.
The study, entitled ‘The Cost of Comparative Cladding Materials’ was produced in December 2007 by the RICS Building Cost Information Service (BCIS). Each of the agreed specifications was priced from current price books – Spon’s, Laxtons and Wessex – using standard assumptions as to quantity, location and site conditions. Data was then collected from 26 live projects, using Bills of Quantities. The following data was abstracted for the report: type of building, value of project, location, floor area, specifications of external cladding systems, unit rates for cladding systems, and identifiable ancillary costs.
BRE’s GREEN GUIDE A+ RATING
The BRE’s latest Green Guide to Specification has assigned the highest possible accreditation A+ to every external wall it rated that contained brickwork.
It states that the choice of external wall specification is probably subject to the widest range of practical, economic and visual considerations compared to other building elements.
The guide provides designers and specifiers with a user-friendly, yet authoritative guide to making the best environmental choices for materials and components. It is the industry bible for green ratings.
As the BRE’s Green Guide makes clear, sustainability is not just about the use of carbon-free materials. Nor is it just about the embodied energy accrued in its production and delivery from ‘cradle to gate’. It is about the total energy consumption of a product – including that used to maintain it, once it’s part of a building, and the fate of ‘end-of-life’ material.
As we are increasingly affected by global warming it is becoming more important to consider using materials that offer high thermal mass performance – clay brick is one such material.
Thermal mass is the ability to store heat – bricks absorb heat throughout the day slowly releasing it at night, ensuring internal temperatures are consistent throughout the day and night. The result is comfortable and healthy living and working environments in which to enjoy stable temperatures throughout the year. The diagram below depicts the stability in internal temperatures during the day and night.
Bricks are a versatile and durable building material, with excellent life cycle performance, energy efficiency, high thermal mass and responsible manufacturing.
Brick and brick buildings are sustainable because they:
1. Are highly durable
Sustainability is often compressed into a consideration of energy use defined as the emission of CO2. The brick industry measures this annually and also reports on it under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.
The UK clay brick and paving industry is firmly committed to minimising carbon emissions and reducing the impact manufacturing has on the environment. Locally available resources are used as efficiently as possible; to reduce waste, to reduce the energy used in manufacture, to encourage the re-use of materials and to design products with the longest possible life span and best performance.
If you spread the CO2 emissions from the brick in a square metre of brickwork over a life of 150 years it equates to 0.252 tCO2e/t, a slight increase on
Very little clay is wasted during manufacture. Unfired waste clay is reused in the manufacturing process and less than perfect fired bricks are crushed and used as aggregates in other parts of the building industry. Materials from Alternative, Recycled and Secondary Sources (MARSS) are increasingly important in the manufacture of clay bricks – the current level of recycled material content in brick is 11% (CERAM 2010).
View or download Brick: Building a Sustainable Resource for the Future which outlines the Industry’s key sustainability facts.
EMBODIED ENERGY/EMBODIED CARBON DIOXIDE IN CLAY BRICKS
Embodied energy is the amount of energy it takes to manufacture and supply bricks to their point of use. Bricks have been labeled as having high embodied energy due to their process of manufacture. However, in measuring sustainability it is necessary to take into account a material’s life cycle performance, as well as the amount of energy consumed in the manufacturing process.
Research recently undertaken demonstrates that the proportion of embodied energy of clay bricks for the modern semi-detached home is equal to just 1.87% of the overall heating requirement for the home over its 150 year life.
Our industry makes annual reports to the Government for both the climate change agreements and the European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EUETS), and therefore monitors CO₂ emissions regularly.
The current figure for total embodied energy CO₂ for clay bricks (excluding flettons) is 0.244 tonnes of CO₂ per tonne of bricks (cradle to site).
Brick is often chosen as a building material in order to complement and integrate with the surrounding environment, especially in areas with graded buildings. Brick’s flexibility means it can be used both to provide a beautiful facade and as an excellent structural material.
Brick works in harmony with other building materials and with a wide range of colours and varying textures offers many alternative styles, from rustic farmhouses to contemporary city apartment buildings. Coupled with choices on laying patterns, mortar colours and finishes, brick can be used to leave a distinctive and extraordinary impression on the landscape.
Brick offers a sense of stability. With our ever changing weather patterns bringing such weather extremes as floods and high temperatures brick is much more robust than many man-made materials and won’t rot, rust, erode or decay.
Brick walls are impact resistant and create buildings that will be around for generations to come. An inert material, brick is not affected by the ravages of water, wind or fire and with inherent sound insulation properties brick shuts out road noises and the howling of winter storms.
Brick is a solid, permanent and low maintenance material that provides lasting beauty and appreciating value – brick offers true longevity. We only have to look back in history to see that brick has been around for thousands of years. With many elements of past brick buildings still standing today, brick is one of the only truly tried and tested materials known to man.
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