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A New Look at Masonry

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, concrete coloring can be used for other parts of the construction.

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.

Mark Benner

Author Mark Benner

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