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Construction professionals know that brick is a beautiful, sustainable and durable product. It’s a high-density material that’s been used in construction for more than 5,000 years. But the perception in the market is that it’s expensive and at times, prohibitively so.

Yet according to estimating handbook RSMeans, structures clad in brick cost less than people might think.

The real problem isn’t cost—it’s the lack of education on the long-term benefits. So, what are some of the reasons that make brick a competitive material offering a lasting investment?

Sustainability

The Brick Industry Association states that “sustainable buildings are designed in a way that uses available resources efficiently and in a responsible manner, balancing environmental, societal and economic impacts to meet the design intents of today while considering future effects.” And as one of the earth’s most abundant and natural materials, brick is sustainable through all phases of its life cycle.

During the initial phases of construction—both commercial and residential—brick is a raw material that uses minimal resources to manufacture and package. In its operational life, it’s virtually maintenance-free – cutting down on many additional costs to upkeep and preserve integrity. Even after the demolition of an existing structure, brick can be recovered and recycled or reused for new homes and commercial projects.

Building with clay brick also reduces the impact of natural resource consumption and offers enormous temperature control benefits. It’s a natural insulator, slowly losing and absorbing heat and helping slash energy costs through a process called thermal mass. Brick’s high thermal mass helps to reduce heating and cooling bills in a way that lightweight materials simply can’t.

Durability

To be sustainable, a structure must also be durable. Brick can withstand numerous natural elements, offering protection against hail, strong winds and blown debris. In September 2004, the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University put this concept to the test. They found that a single section of brick exceeded the impact resistance requirements for high velocity hurricane zones in the Florida building code as well as surpassing impact resistance requirements for essential facilities in hurricane-prone areas of the state.

Moisture is often the number one cause of structural deterioration. An often-lesser known benefit of brick is moisture control. It minimizes the growth of mold, mildew, dust mites, wood rot and infestation of insects (including termites) and rodents. When built with a one-inch cavity inside, the use of brick masonry can prevent rain and snow from ruining a home or building’s key structural components. Brick naturally absorbs humidity with a surface that’s more diffusion-open than other construction materials.

Fire Protection

Fired to around 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, brick is a non-combustible material. The International Building Code states that clay brick typically used for residential construction provides at least a one-hour fire resistance rating. In addition, many American cities including Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, St. Louis and Portland, Maine, have adopted the wide usage of brick—and often mandated its use in local building codes. Other building products, such as lightweight materials, wood, vinyl siding and others require additional treatment or elements in the wall assembly to attain a one-hour fire rating, further raising the cost and still offering less protection.

Cost Savings

Many contractors and construction professionals focus too heavily on the initial investment of brick when the real value is gained over time. Brick requires almost no cost to upkeep – there’s no fading, painting, need for annual cleaning or long-term maintenance processes required.  

When calculating insurance costs, it all comes down to risk. What’s the likelihood that an insurer will have to pay out a policy at some point? Insurance against natural disasters such as fire, wind, hail and rain can be extremely expensive—particularly in areas prone to these elements such as California, Colorado, Texas and Florida. Because brick is fire- and disaster-resistant, many home and building owners can see reduced insurance rates and cost savings.

Savings on maintenance, insurance and utilities combined with the increase in resale value demonstrate that brick can offer a better value than structures built with wood or synthetic materials. While the upfront cost of construction might be slightly higher, the long-term investment and tangible value speaks for itself.

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