I had opportunity to get acquainted with an old friend while attending a seminar sponsored by Illinois Brick Company. We all have a general understanding and appreciation for masonry, one of the earliest building materials. It represents durability, mass, value. Strangely, brick is now used almost exclusively as a finish material rather than its original structural role.
This represents a kind of redundant construction method which in turn contributes to an even more exaggerated construction cost. Why don’t we think of brick in its structural sense? It seems like a number of advantages would be available. Rather than a multiple step process to construct a wall, a mason could build a wall that serves both structural and finish roles in a single operation, saving both time and money.
Some of the facts and history that I found interesting are:
- The Monadnock Building is a structural masonry construction with a wall thickness at its base of six feet and at its top, only eighteen inches.
- A structural application of masonry helps to eliminate the complications associated with differential expansion of dissimilar materials.
- This type of construction offers superior noise isolation.
- Brick masonry is stronger than concrete masonry unit (CMU) construction, enabling thinner walls.
The overlooked properties of our building materials deserve a fresh look and consideration for application of a trusted material in expanded ways. So often we become complacent in the ways that things are done. It would be wise to take a step back and consider how we use many of the materials that go into our projects.