Picture this, you’re sitting down with your architect in the beginning stages of planning your dream home and you realise that every decision from design to function is yours to make. This can be a daunting realisation, but at the same time an exciting one.
One of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make is which building material you’re going to use: brick, roof tiles, concrete and so on. It is a decision that impacts the design aesthetics, ongoing maintenance and the overall look of the building.
As a building material, clay bricks have been used for hundreds of years, and quite literally, stands the test of time. The ability to use brick in a variety of ways, the ease of construction and its superior thermal mass properties, makes it worth considering for your home.
Here are five reasons to consider using brick in your home:
1. Design aesthetic
The options for how brick can be used have expanded remarkably in a short period of time. Gone are the days when you had a choice of just two colours of brick: red or yellow. Today there are literally hundreds of colours, finishes and sizes to pick from. This variety lends itself beautifully to the creation of unique and inspiring designs. Brick is versatile for creating unique looks both externally and internally.
The ways in which brick is being used from a design perspective has evolved too. Architects and designers are now using bricks to create 3D sculptural effects, intricate detailing and different shapes, departing from the traditional concept of the brick box structure.
Applecross House on the edge of the Swan River in Perth, and winner of the 2016 Think Brick Residential Award, is a stunning example of using brick to create interesting design features. The brick mass is simultaneously heavy and light and the brick patterning slips and slides, creating a sense of movement to emulate the river it overlooks and the afternoon breezes it enjoys.
2. Energy efficiency and thermal comfort
With around 39 percent of the home’s energy use going towards maintaining a pleasant temperature, it has become increasingly important to build a home that will minimise the energy required for heating and cooling, from both a cost savings and sustainability perspective.
Solar passive design uses natural heating and natural cooling to keep temperatures within a comfortable range – typically 18 to 24 degrees Celsius – and should not cost more when included at the planning stage.
Key considerations for passive solar design are: Thermal mass, orientation and solar access; shading and glazing; sealing and ventilation; and insulation.
Research shows that building materials with high thermal mass have the highest energy efficiency. Thermal mass is the ability of a material to retain heat energy when subjected to varying temperatures and then slowly release it back into the environment as conditions change.
Buildings with the highest thermal mass are made with double brick, also known as cavity brick, followed by brick veneer (an outer layer of brick). As a building material, brick offers superior thermal mass. Research shows that building with brick gives greater thermal mass than alternative lightweight building materials.
In homes where the inside walls are made of brick and the exterior walls of other materials (such as fibre cements, timber, or render), otherwise known as reverse brick veneer (RVB), there is a greater level of thermal mass than in buildings made solely with insulated lightweight materials. This results in a more stable and comfortable inside temperature.
3. Durability and reduced maintenance
Brick is tough and permanent. Once it’s built it remains weatherproof and age proof. Brick doesn’t wear out like many man-made materials and requires little to no upkeep or repairs. Bricks are rust proof, will not erode, rot, decay, bend or warp, nor do they need paint or other treatment to maintain aesthetics and durability.
Even after 50 years brick is strong, reliable and relatively maintenance free. In fact, many brick buildings only improve their appearance with age – The Great Wall of China is still looking great after more than 2,000 years.
Of particular importance is the need to build with the most appropriate type of brick. For instance, those living within a kilometre of the ocean or in ‘tough soil’ environments, such as former tip sites, need to use exposure grade bricks. These bricks are designed to withstand the higher salt levels of the environment.
4. Sound insulation
Whether you’re living on a main road or looking to build a home theatre room, brick provides superior sound insulation from external noise. The heavy mass of clay brick masonry is best for acoustic insulation, and is able to block low frequency noise.
Double brick walls have the added benefit of isolating impact sounds, meaning you could bounce a tennis ball against your living room wall while watching the news and your partner could sleep blissfully unaware in the next room. Brick also has an inherent resistance to airborne sound, and is able to block out machinery, amplified music, and sounds of traffic as well as aircraft carriers.
5. Ideal for bushveldfire prone areas
Brick is an ideal choice for bushveldfire prone areas being that it is fundamentally fireproof, non-combustible and thus will not aid the spread of a fire. Bricks are kiln-fired at temperatures of up to 1,200 degrees Celsius, which means they are able to withstand the intense heat of a fire without changing structurally.
So while furniture, trees and other man made materials may disintegrate in the intense heat of a fire, the brick skeleton of your home will remain standing. These same bricks can then be used to rebuild, should disaster strike. This is a true testament to the strength of this material.
Deciding which building material to use for your new home is a big decision and should not be taken lightly. There are many factors to consider to ensure that your home is well built and looks good. Brick is a timeless, age resistant, and structurally sound material that is worth considering for home owners. The benefits it offers can help assure you of your decision for years to come, as well as comfort while you enjoy your home.
By Elizabeth McIntyre, CEO of Think Brick Australia