How Does Brick Compare to Other Building Envelope Choices?

Few materials can match brick’s service life. According to the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), brick masonry has a 100-year life cycle. Vinyl siding, by contrast, lasts only 25-50 years. And, unlike low-maintenance brick, other materials – like siding, stucco and cement – must be well-maintained in order to last even a fraction of that time.

Brick can withstand a variety of weather conditions and circumstances – such as high winds and wind-borne debris – that other materials can’t, providing built-in safety and security.

The thermal mass of brick masonry provides numerous energy benefits that other building envelope materials aren’t able to deliver:

  • It reduces peak heating and cooling loads.
  • It moderates indoor temperature swings, for improved thermal comfort.
  • And it potentially reduces the size of a building’s HVAC system.

Using recycled material in a manufactured product can play an important role in sustainability because it reduces the need to extract virgin materials and diverts waste materials from landfills. Pre-consumer recycled content can be used as colorants for brick, and brick can also be made from clay or soil that would have otherwise been considered waste. The mortar and grout in brickwork may also include recycled material. While other building envelope materials can claim to incorporate recycled content, none have the longstanding track record as clay brick.

Unlike other envelope materials bricks are typically manufactured from raw materials close to the plant site (just 15 miles away, on average).

Because brick is easily recycled and reused (where other envelope materials are not), its waste is able to be effectively managed on construction sites.

Source: Brick Industry Association