Green Building, Energy Efficiency, and Sustainability
BIA Builder Notes Issue 5
These words have made their way into the minds and voices of home builders and home owners. And for good reason. Those who choose to construct a home according to green building principles are reducing the long-term impact of their home on the environment and their wallet while increasing their quality of life.
Today, genuine clay brick has proven its contributing role in green building design and sustainability.
Brick Manufacturing and Sustainability
Modern brick manufacturing has captured great efficiencies and incorporates many sustainable practices. Made primarily from clay and shale, brick comes from abundant natural resources. Most brick manufacturing plants stand in close proximity to their raw materials. In fact, numerous manufacturers transport their shale or clay one mile or less from the pit to the plant. However, sustainability doesn’t end at the manufacturing process.
Brick manufacturers also reclaim their pit and mined areas by reestablishing vegetation or creating new ponds or lakes. Overburden and topsoil are replaced, and the resulting property can be reused. Fired brick is inert by nature and can safely encapsulate many waste materials. During the brick making process, post-industrial and post-consumer waste products can be added to the clay or shale. Waste products such as stone dust, glass, bottom ash, tile, and waste brick and clay are included by some brick manufacturers. Sixty percent of brick plants use renewable materials in their manufacturing process. Burn-out materials, such as sawdust and rice hulls, are added to produce lower weight brick units with fewer raw materials. A majority of plants also use scrubbers to control kiln emissions, and many recycle the waste lime/limestone material generated by the scrubbers. Very little material is wasted during the brick manufacturing process. Water, often supplied from recycled or public sources, is used very efficiently—almost99% is recycled or emitted back into the environment as steam. The same efficiency maybe found with the bricks themselves. On average, only 3% of brick units are rejected—and the rejects are recycled back into the manufacturing process. Culled brick are also crushed for use in landscaping or for other purposes. The majority of manufacturers have a reclamation program in place for unsold brick and brick packaging material.
Brick manufacturers have significantly reduced the amount of energy required to produce brick. In the past, it took approximately 4000 BTU per pound of brick to mine, manufacture, and transport brick. In 2007, it took just1239 BTU per pound. This increase inefficiency comes not just from new plants, but also from older plants where manufacturers have made a commitment to higher energy effi ciency. In fact, more than 80% of plants have recently made improvements to reduce energy usage. Some plants have even begun to use renewable or alternate energy sources such as landfill gas, a highly benefi cial means of disposing of potent greenhouse gases.
Brick Masonry Construction and Green Building/Sustainable Design
Brick masonry construction can play an important role in building green, sustainably designed homes. In the U.S., two primary green building rating systems are used to evaluate the majority of homes: the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED™ for Homes or ICC and NAHB’s National Green Building Standard (based on the earlier NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines).
Resource: Brick Institute Association – BIA – www.gobrick.com