Green Building – The Sustainability of Brick
In Technical Note 48, the Brick Industry Association presents an assessment of sustainability and sustainable design in relation to brick manufacturing, use and recycling. Find here all you need to know about the sustainability of brick.
“Sustainable design” is a term that has entered the vernacular of building design and construction. As more buildings are designed and constructed using sustainable design principles, the need for information on building products and their sustainable design features also grows. In assessing the sustainable attributes of building products, consideration must be given to how the product is manufactured, used and disposed of. This Technical Note provides information on the sustainability of brick, when it comes to brick usage, manufacturing and recycling.
Sustainability is defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” 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. They should be resilient to withstand the effects of nature with minimal damage. Sustainable buildings are designed to be energy efficient, water efficient and resource efficient.
Through their design, they address the wellbeing of the occupants by providing thermal and acoustic comfort, indoor air quality and appealing aesthetics. They also consider the impact of their construction, operation and maintenance on the environment, and the environmental impact of their constituent materials. Most important, a sustainably designed building addresses all these aspects through its entire life cycle, including its operation and maintenance.
Green building rating systems, standards and codes
While there is general agreement on many of the elements of sustainable building design, defining and measuring it poses a challenge. There are several standards, codes and rating systems that have developed requirements for green buildings. Each is somewhat different, but all focus on reducing environmental impacts in the areas of energy use, water use, material/resource use, building sites and improving the building indoor environment. This Technical Note considers those programs that are most widely used in the United States, as shown below.
Nonresidential construction green building programs:
- LEED 2009 (Building Design and Construction: New Construction and Major Renovations Rating System)
- LEED v4 (Building Design and Construction: New Construction and Major Renovations Rating System)
- ASHRAE 189.1 (Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings)
- IgCC (International Green Construction Code)
Residential construction green building programs:
- LEED-Homes (Building Design and Construction: Homes and Multifamily Low-Rise)
- ICC 700 (National Green Building Standard)
Green building rating systems
Green building rating systems are developed as voluntary programs for assessing sustainable attributes of buildings. Rating systems allow the users to select which attributes they want to include, and they reward buildings that include more sustainable attributes with higher levels of certification. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system, developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), is the most widely used green building rating system in the United States.
There are currently two versions of LEED available for use: LEED 2009 and LEED v4. LEED v4 (updated in November 2013) made numerous changes to the rating system, but none was as significant as the changes made to the credits in the Materials and Resources (MR) category. Credits that focused on single attributes of materials such as recycled content in LEED 2009 have been replaced with credits focused on life-cycle assessment, product transparency and reporting in LEED v4. Refer to the specific requirements found in the rating systems and LEED Reference Guide for Green Building Design and Construction.
You can read the full Technical Note on Brick Construction – TN48 for details on green building standards and codes, and green building program limitations at www.gobrick.com/Portals/25/docs/Technical%20Notes/TN48.pdf.
Sustainable design elements
Environmentally responsive site planning. Environmentally responsive site planning includes consideration of site selection, site disturbance, rainwater management and effects of the building on its surroundings. The use of brick masonry is an appropriate choice for achieving several elements of environmentally responsive site planning.
Reuse and renovation. The first step in site planning is selection of the building site. Reuse or renovation of an existing building can result in significant reductions in environmental impacts as compared with new construction. Because of aesthetic appeal, durability and historic value frequently associated with brick masonry buildings, they often are chosen for reuse.
In many cases, load-bearing brick buildings are reused in their entirety. In other cases, the brick façade is retained while a new structure is constructed. By adapting existing structures to new uses, both resources and energy are saved, and environmental impacts are reduced. This adaptive reuse of brick masonry buildings is a testament to the longevity and durability of brick masonry.
Managing rainwater. By managing rainwater, increasing on-site filtration and eliminating contaminants, the disruption and pollution of natural water flows are limited. Flexible brick pavements can be designed as permeable pavements to allow percolation of rainwater through the pavement, thereby reducing runoff, recharging groundwater aquifers and removing contaminants from surface water.
Reducing the heat island effect. Building and pavement surfaces can have a warming effect on surrounding air temperatures, particularly in urban areas. One strategy that can be used to help reduce this heat island effect is to use materials that have a three-year aged solar reflectance (SR) of 0.28 or higher on pavements and walkways on the building site, or even on vegetated roofs to provide access paths to reduce this effect. Though lighter colors often are associated with high SR values, many brick pavers, even some that are dark in color, can meet this requirement.
To read the full Technical Note on Brick Construction – TN48, view references, and learn details of brick manufacturing and sustainability, visit www.gobrick.com/Portals/25/docs/Technical%20Notes/TN48.pdf
About the premier image: This single-family residence in Port Washington, N.Y., was an entrant in the Brick Industry Association’s Brick in Architecture Awards, Residential – Single-Family category. The brick manufacturer was Glen-Gery Corp. Photo by Chris Kelly.