Building Demolition Experts Talk Brick: A Sustainable, Reusable Material

Oregon Demolition Brick recyclingHave you ever pondered bricks? We’re guessing not, but this humble and ancient building material is worth your consideration. From our perspective as Oregon demolition experts, bricks are amazing, as they are almost endlessly recyclable. They represent an excellent opportunity for green demolition. While practicing Portland demolition, we consider salvaged bricks as assets that can help offset our clients’ demolition costs. Let’s further explore the benefits and uses of bricks, one of the world’s top reusable building materials.

Benefits of Building with Bricks

The main benefits of bricks are their durability and their ability to be recycled. Bricks are made from natural materials, and thus can be recycled in all phases of their production. Starting with raw materials, during production, and into the packaging and distribution stages, this ability to be recycled continues into the operational and deconstruction stages of a brick’s lifecycle as well.

In addition, the porous nature of bricks allow them to accumulate heat. On sunny days, the energy from the sun is stored in and reflected off of bricks, which can serve to buffer prevent the building from overheating on hot days. Another advantage of bricks is that they are practically maintenance-free, which reduces the building’s overall environmental impact. Bricks are stable and do not stretch or shrink, making them idea for larger structures. (Of course, for earthquake preparedness it is key to have reinforcing steel bars running through brick mortar work for extra stability.) A final advantage of bricks is their fire resistance. In short, bricks are a terrific building material.

Reusing Bricks

Bricks can be reused and recycled from many sources, demolished buildings being a main source. Many times, brick buildings that are over 100 years old must be demolished, not due to failing bricks, but because of the condition of other structural components. Older structure may not be stable enough to meet certain municipal building codes. For instance, in the City of Portland, demolition may be required for brick buildings labeled with a “U” sign, standing for Unstable. Older brick structures without reinforcement bars must come down, but the bricks may be recovered as remaining mortar is removed.

Recycling Bricks

In addition to being reused, bricks can be recycled as well. Because they are made from mineral components, crushed brick can serve as aggregate for poured and cast concrete; for filling and stabilizing material; and as aggregates for other materials such as calcium silicate bricks. In addition, crushed brick can be used as gravel on tennis courts.

Green Manufacturing

Bricks are considered a green choice for manufacturing and construction. From an environmental standpoint, building with bricks offers many advantages:

  • Minimize the Landfill. Recycling brings makes use of otherwise undesired materials, such as mine tillings and demolition debris.
  • Alternate Manufacturing Energy Sources. Bricks win points for green manufacturing as well. Many modern brick plants draw power from non-fossil fuel resources. They may instead burn sawdust, agricultural products, and even methane from landfills as fuel.
  • Efficient Manufacturing Process. Less energy is required to mine, manufacture, and distribute bricks than ever before.
  • Minimal Waste Stream. Very little waste is produced during the brick manufacturing process, in part because the material is highly recyclable.

Historians and archeologists show that humans have been using bricks since the dawn of civilization, starting on the banks of the Mesopotamian rivers. The materials needed to manufacture bricks are naturally abundant on earth. Bricks are cost- and energy-efficient because they are easy to maintain and long lasting. An additional benefit of using bricks is the ease of reuse.

At Elder, we are committed to green demolition practices, and can help find solutions to your demolition situation, including recycling and reusing brick. Call us today if you would like to find out more.

[Photo by Marc Falardeau via CC License]

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