Brick Masonry Materials:
Mortar is made of minerals that are generally abundant in the earth. Portland cement and lime are energy intensive products.
Clay and shale, the raw materials for bricks, are plentiful. Thy are usually obtained from open pits, with the attendant disruption of drainage, vegetation, and wildlife habitat.
Clay brick can include recycled brick dust, post-industrial wastes such as fly ash and a variety of other waste products in their manufacture.
Brick manufacturing plants are usually located close to the sources of their raw materials. Brick manufacturing produces few waste materials. Unfired clay is easily recycled into the production process. Fired bricks that are unusable are ground up and recycled into the production process or used as landscaping material.
Brick manufacturing requires relatively large amounts of water. Water that doesn’t evaporate can be reused many times. Little if any water need be discharged as waste.
Because of the energy used in its ring, brick is relatively energy-intensive product. Its embodied energy may range from about 1000 to 4000 BTU per pound (2.3 – 9.3 MJ/kg).
The most common energy source for brick kilns is natural gas, although oil and coal are also used. Firing of clay masonry produces fluorine and chlorine emissions. Other types of air pollution can result from improperly regulated kilns.
Most bricks are sold for use in regional markets close to their point of manufacture. This reduces the energy required for shipping and makes much brick eligible for credit as a regional material.
Brick Masonry Construction
Relatively small amounts of waste are generated on a construction site during brick masonry work, including partial bricks, unsatisfactory bricks, and unused mortar. These wastes generally go into land-fills or are buried on the site.
Sealers applied to brick masonry to provide water repellency and protection from staining are potential sources of emissions. Solvent-based sealers generally have higher emissions than water-based products.
Brick Masonry Buildings
Brick masonry is not normally associated with any indoor air quality problems, although in rare circumstances it can be a source of radon gas.
The thermal mass effect of brick masonry can be a useful component of fuel-saving heating and cooling strategies such as solar heating and nighttime cooling. Brick masonry is a durable form of construction that requires relatively little maintenance and can last a very long time.
Construction with brick masonry can reduce reliance on paint finishes, a source of volatile organic compounds. Brick masonry is resistant to moisture damage and mold growth.
When a brick building is demolished, sound bricks may be cleaned of mortar and reused (once their physical properties have been verified as adequate for the new use). Brick waste can be crushed and used for landscaping. Brick and mortar waste can also be used as on-site fill. Much such waste, however, is disposed of off-site in landfills.