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Top 6 Reasons to Choose Clay Brick

Whether your building a new home or remodeling your current one, there are many reasons to choose clay brick.  Both in the wall and on the ground. Here are our Top 6 reasons that make brick your best solution!

  1. Genuine clay brick is made from natural materials
    Brick made from clay and shale – some of the most abundant, natural materials on earth – and then fired through a kiln at up to 2000 degrees. The reason the brick turns into such a durable material is that the clay/shale unit actually goes through a vitrification process in the kiln, which enables the clay particles to fuse together.

    Many people may confuse clay brick with "brick" made from other materials. For example, concrete units rely on a cement paste to bond the materials together. Moreover, concrete units are inherently a grayish color, which means that users must inject color pigments before the setting process and use color sealant afterwards to have a color affect. On the other hand, clay brick has thousands of color and shade options that will not fade. Contrary to some people's perceptions, clay brick is actually significantly stronger than concrete brick as well. Another brick-like material, made from fly ash, claims to meet the same performance standards as clay brick. Since fly ash has no ASTM standards of its own, don't make the mistake of assuming that brick-resembling products automatically perform as well as genuine clay brick.

  2. Brick has been proven for centuries
    What began as a building essential in the Near East and India more than 5,000 years ago, wound its way through the ancient Egyptians, the Indus Valley civilization and the Romans and today has amazingly become the all-American building product throughout our country’s history. Just look at the structures and roadways in your community. Chancesare, at least some of them are built with brick. 

    At the same time, bricks today are subject to much more stringent manufacturing processes than used in the past, which results in a more consistently performing end-product.  While it is still possible to purchase hand-made brick, it is also possible to buy the type of architectural brick that meets extremely strict product specifications.

  3. Brick offers superior protection over other wall cladding materials
    The story of the Three Little Pigs is just as true today as it was when it was first told to children long ago.  Research confirms that genuine clay brick provides superior shelter in three major categories.

    • Fire Protection. Since the primary ingredient in brick is clay which is fired to around 2000 F, it is a non-combustible material. As such, it is an excellent cladding choice to resist or confine fires. In fact, both the National Institute of Standards and Technology and BIA conducted separate fire tests that conclusively demonstrate that nothing outperforms good old-fashioned brick in a one hour fire test and that today’s “advanced” materials, such as vinyl, are engulfed by flames within minutes.  See for yourself.
      • High wind protection. A Shelter from the Storm study conducted in September 2004 shows that homes built with brick offer dramatically more protection from wind-blown debris than homes built with vinyl or fiber-cement siding. Conducted at the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University, the study demonstrated that a medium-sized wind-blown object, such as a 7.5-foot long 2 x 4, would penetrate homes built with vinyl or fiber-cement siding at a speed of 25 mph. By comparison, the same object would need to travel at a speed exceeding 80 mph in order to penetrate the wall of a brick home. The tests found that homes made with brick exceed the 34 mph impact resistance requirement for high velocity hurricane zones in the Florida building code. Brick also exceeds Florida’s impact resistance requirements for essential facilities in hurricane areas. Brick is such a strong and durable building material that your insurance companies may even offer you a discount on your home insurance costs.
      • Superior moisture control. According to a nationally - renowned, independent building products research laboratory, brick veneer wall assemblies control moisture better than wall systems clad with other exterior materials.  Therefore, brick veneer wall systems help minimize mold growth, wood rot and infestation by insects, and corrosion of fasteners embedded in wood better than other wall assemblies.  Read the full report.
    • Brick looks better, for far longer and with less maintenance, than other building materials
      Brick offers lasting value. It doesn't rot, dent, or need to be painted, and it will never tear or be eaten by termites. Its modular units and variety of shapes have resulted in beautiful structures in just about every architectural style, ranging from colonial to Victorian to post-modernist.  It is one of the few materials that can actually look better with age. Brick also absorbs noise, giving it an acoustic advantage over other materials - especially helpful in densely populated areas. Maybe this is why readers see ads for “all-brick” houses much more often than ads for “all-vinyl” or “all-EIFS" neighborhoods.

    • Brick is naturally energy-efficient
      Brick is a building material that has exceptional "thermal mass” properties. Thermal mass is the ability of a heavy, dense material to store heat and then slowly release it. For you, this means that during the summer months your brick home stays cool during the hottest part of the day. During the winter, brick walls store your home's heat and radiate it back to you. Vinyl, aluminum, wood, or EIFS (artificial stucco) are all thin, light building materials that do not have good thermal mass properties. The superior thermal mass qualities of brick have been known for centuries.

    • Brick is the most sustainable green building material made.
      Given the significance buildings have on energy consumption, brick should be part of a comprehensive green strategy because today’s brick includes:
    • Inherently Natural Ingredients. Brick is predominantly made from clay and shale, which are among the most abundant materials available on earth.
    • Countless Recycling Options. Brick can be salvaged, crushed brick for sub-base materials, and chipped brick for permanent landscaping mulch.
    • Minimal Waste. Virtually all of the mined clay is used in the manufacturing process making the recycling and waste containment unequalled by any other building material.  In fact, over 80% of our manufacturers re-use their own fired waste material or convert it into other products.  And if you decide to pitch it, there is no special handling required because brick is simply earth, so it’s inert.
    • Brick is the first masonry material that can attain a “Certificate of Environmental Claims” from a third party source. The National Brick Research Center, an organization of the College of Engineering andcScience at Clemson University, has developed a standard to verify the amount of recycled content in brick, the utilization of renewable energy in the firing process, and the reduction in the amount of resources used to manufacture brick.
    • Environmentally Friendly Manufacturing Processes. More than 80% of brick kilns are fired with natural gas, and numerous plants use fuels of bio-based materials from other industrial applications and waste products.  Energy sources include methane gas from landfills and sawdust from furniture manufacturers.
    • Low Embodied Energy to Manufacture Brick. With clay brick’s renowned longevity, no additional energy will be needed to make a replacement brick for many decades – if not centuries. The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) gives brick masonry a 100-year life, and many brick buildings older than a century are still in use today. In fact, brick is one of the few materials that building codes allow to be reused in a building application when it meets the ASTM standard for clay brick. Consequently, salvaged bricks are in high demand and represent a vibrant market.
    • According to recent statistics, the impact of residential and commercial buildings account for:
      • 65.2% of electricity consumption
      • >36% of the country’s “primary energy use”
      • 30% of total US greenhouse gas emissions
      • 136 million tons of demolition and construction waste in the U.S.  That equates approximately 2.8 lbs per person per day
    Talk with your local brick distributor to see all the colors and styles available in your area.

    2015 Brick in Architecture Awards Call-For-Entries

    The Brick Industry Association is continuing its 26-year tradition of honoring architects for excellence in brick masonry and is pleased to announce a call-for-entries for the 2015 Brick in Architecture Awards!

    View Full Press Release 

    As the largest and most prestigious juried awards program of its kind, the Brick in Architecture Awards showcase the best work in clay face and paving brick from architects across the country. We cordially invite you to submit your best projects to the competition in the following categories:


    Commercial (Under $10 Million)
    Commercial (Over $10 Million)
    Education - K-12
    Education - Colleges & Universities (Higher Education) *
    Health Care Facilities
    Municipal / Government
    Houses of Worship
    Residential – Single Family
    Residential – Multi-Family
    Renovation (Additions) ** / Restoration (Restoring)
    Paving & Landscape Projects


    *   Includes residence halls & academic/administrative buildings
    ** Additions must use at least 50 percent new clay brick products on the building. Restoration must include at least 50% clay brick products, which can either be new or salvaged.


    Winners from this year’s competition will be featured in Brick News Online, Brick in Architecture, and through a special insert in the December 2014 issue of Architect magazine! And all entries will be featured in BIA’s online Brick Gallery.

    The 2015 awards competition will be conducted entirely online. For complete information on eligibility, submission requirements, and judging, visit


    To start your entry, visit
    Deadline for submission of all entries is April 30, 2015


    The Brick in Architecture Awards program is a key tactic that works in support of the association’s strategic goals. To broaden the reach and success of this effort, we encourage you to pass this Call-For-Entries along to your architectural colleagues so that they too can enter for the chance to receive national recognition for projects using your clay brick.

    Brick makes a lasting statement — and winning this award could solidify your name with your architectural customers. Log on today and submit your entry to the 2015 Brick in Architecture Awards!

    If you have any questions, contact Tricia Mauer at or 703-674-1539.

    2014 Brick in Architecture Awards - Residential Single Family Winner - Indigo House

    High above the Canadian shores of Lake Erie, the Indigo House sits on a precipitous bluff. It stands as a sculptural “object in the landscape,” towering against the harsh elements and stark wilderness of the Lake Erie shoreline.

    Given this extreme location, the designers at Cindy Rendely Architexture investigated construction methods and materials that were suitable for the site’s extreme four-season weather. They concluded that this unique home required a permanent, nonfading impervious finish that could withstand severe abuse from the elements. Therefore, ceramic glazed brick units were specified for much of the exterior wall space since they are highly durable and resistant to damage caused by freeze-thaw cycles. A brick exterior provides a robust and durable cladding while also psychologically enclosing the inhabitants within a strong building envelope. At once, it creates a relaxing interior environment sheltered from the unpredictable outdoors.

    Aesthetically, the idiosyncratic blue glazed brick reflected the vibrant personality of the owners and provided the contemporary aesthetic they desired. Elongated Norman-sized brick were used to accentuate the building’s horizontality of long, linear forms that anchor the building to its site. Composed of three connected volumes, the geometry of the house takes its cues from critical sightlines that direct one’s view towards the lake from every room. The angles of the building are derived from the property lines, and they were detailed with custom-sized corner brick which provided a continuous glazed surface around the building’s sharp, acute corners.

    The glossy blue brick cladding on the building runs all the way to the ground and anchors the house to its site. And yet, its stacked volumes and hovering forms reach out to the sky above. The home truly is a  unique sculptural element that at once blends in and stands out in its environment

    For more of Indigo House, see its feature article in Brick In Architecture.  It will also appear in the December issue of Architect magazine.

    2014 Brick in Architecture Awards - Residential Multi-Family Winner - Millennium Place

    Millennium Place, a 256-unit residential building, is one of the newest, upscale additions to downtown Boston. In a prime location on the commercial spine of Washington Street, the brick building sits along a pronounced and important bend in Boston’s historic district. Taking inspiration from its wedge-shaped lot, Millennium Place boasts wedge-shaped bay windows arranged in a radial pattern.

    When it came to choosing the exterior material, the owner required a low-maintenance, durable, and dense exterior envelope. Moreover, the aesthetic needed to attract a range of homebuyers in this high-end historical neighborhood. Brick met all the criteria by connoting stability, having a deep architectural tradition in the area, and having a high preference among home buyers.

    The choice of brick went beyond concern for retail sales and classic styling. Continuity in the community also played a large role, so the design team sought to visually link the building to the rich historic texture of the early twentieth-century structures on the east side of the street. The brick’s beige color further echoes the surrounding area. During the 1900s, Roman-size brick was heavily used in this district of Boston. The same type of brick was used on Millennium Place to evoke these centuries-old structures, only this time with a newer, high-performance exterior that today’s modern brick delivers.

    To further capitalize on brick’s design strength, a blend of three brick colors was employed to create a variegated surface as well as capture a rich interplay between light and shadow. Additionally, the use of full deep-raked mortar joints helped express the individual brick and created a strong visual texture. Each corner was articulated to define a threshold at the intersections, and at the pedestrian level, special details and character were incorporated, reminiscent of other local decorative details.

    Millennium Place incorporates many sustainable design features and is pending LEED Silver Certification

    For more of Millennium Place, see its feature article in Brick In Architecture.  It will also appear in the December issue of Architect magazine.

    2014 Brick in Architecture Awards - Renovation Winner - Thurston Wine House

    For an avid wine collector and drinker, the addition of the Thurston Wine House to the owner’s existing brick residence was an investment in his extensive collection and a statement to one man’s appreciation for wine.

    The Wine House carefully displays a respect for its context through its materiality and tectonic language while expressing its unconventional program through more formal elements. Embedded into the topography of the site, the project takes advantage of its landscape by using the slope to decrease the visual impact of structure, allowing unblocked views of the valley and mountains beyond. The southeast elevation, however, reveals the building’s massiveness as the curvilinear shape suggests the path to an inconspicuous garden gate concealing the Wine House below.

    The structure is uniquely constructed with a triple wythe shell. The internal wythe uses concrete masonry units (CMU) and absorbs the variety of structural conditions, acting alternately as a 12 ft-8 in. tall retaining wall and a 12 ft-8 in. cantilevered wall throughout the building’s elliptical construction.

    Where submerged, the outer wythe is again composed of traditional CMU construction. However, as it emerges above grade, the courses transition to clay brick. Rejecting any superficial finish coat, the inherent qualities of the brick are celebrated and the signature of each brick’s handmade lineage is exposed.

    The design provides a variety of very singular, and yet collective, experiences, all of which enrich the program. The entertaining capability of the existing house flows seamlessly to the Wine House’s rooftop terrace, offering the perfect setting to enjoy a glass of one’s favorite wine with guests. As one descends the adjacent stairs into the wine room itself, the brick ascends skyward and the running bond throughout the project gives way to stacked bond coursing at the entry door.

    As the project is partially underground, the Wine House also benefits from the thermal storage capacity of the brick by greatly reducing the demand of the mechanical systems throughout the year. Every design detail reinforces that brick masonry was the ideal choice for this project.

    For more of Thurston Wine House, see its feature article in Brick In Architecture. It will also appear in the December issue of Architect magazine.

    2014 Brick in Architecture Awards - Paving/Landscape Architecture Winner - One Loudoun

    The Plaza at One Loudoun is the centerpiece of a new planned town center and has become the heart of Loudoun County, Virginia’s “new downtown.” The One Loudoun development encompasses more than 400 acres, which are divided into residential, office, and mixed-use areas.

    A main goal for the Plaza at One Loudoun was to create an area where people could relax and be part of a unique gathering space. The plaza would be a place for residents and visitors to enjoy its entertainment, shopping, and dining choices. In addition to its central location, the plaza has a modern identity offering a concert stage, electronic tag games, and a summertime interactive water fountain. Throughout it all, the unique brick paving pattern adds a warm, inviting feel for all who are drawn to the area.

    Inspired by both the classic American town square and the unique paving patterns found in the piazzas of Italy, this modern design incorporates brick pavers, artificial turf, and planted areas. With so much activity on the plaza, its design had to be balanced, unique, and inviting. By configuring the brick into an intricate paving pattern, the design team divided the space of the plaza by activities, yet still created one cohesive space.

    The design team quickly turned to brick pavers as the main surface element because of their great variety of colors and patterns. Basket weave, herringbone, and running bond brick patterns were repeated throughout the design using different colors of brick. The effect creates a design with concentric ellipses and crossing stripes that leads the eye to the center of the plaza and stage. The warm brown and tan brick pavers coupled with the lighter-colored concrete pavers imbue the plaza with an old-world feel. Ultimately, the brick pavers have created one visually stunning design.

    Compared to other pavements in the surrounding area, the brick pavers and the plaza itself have been warmly embraced and welcomed by people of all ages

    For more of One Loudoun, see its feature article in Brick In Architecture.  It will also appear in the December issue of Architect magazine.

    2014 Brick in Architecture Awards - Municipal/Government Winner - Shelbyville Fire Station

    One can measure the success of any fire department by the courage and sacrifice made by each firefighter and by the sense of security felt by the community they serve. To help the firefighters carry out their 24/7 public service operation, their facilities need to be highly functional, durable, efficient, and comfortable. Additionally, the design of the structures needs to be timeless, well conceived, and provoke a sense of longevity. In the end, a firehouse should be a source of pride in the community.

    Shelbyville Fire Station No. 2 is the second new fire station to be built by the City of Shelbyville in the past seven years. It is, however, the city’s first station built within a planned development that will include a mix of commercial, retail, and light industrial buildings. Additionally, the fire station required two main programmatic components: appropriate living quarters and an apparatus bay.

    The biggest challenges faced by the architects were how to create the massing of the two components and the lack of existing context around the site. As the first building of the development—and sitting adjacent to additional undeveloped sites—the design had to employ unique, iconic forms in order to state its presence.

    Brick became the clear choice for many reasons. First, it is a material that provides the longevity and durability a fire station needs in order to withstand the test of time. Second, unlimited brick detailing and design options allow it to blend well with other materials and fit into any future context. Finally, the brick creates a defined scale that relates the overall massing of the building to the firefighters who interact with it.

    Designed and built off of the lessons learned from the city’s first station, Station No. 2 stands as an exemplary composition of civic architecture that uplifts the community in a positive way.

    For more of Shelbyville Fire Station, see its feature article in Brick In Architecture.  It will also appear in the December issue of Architect magazine.

    2014 Brick in Architecture Awards - Health Care Winner - Mercy Health West Hospital

    The new Mercy Health – West Hospital has proven to be an extraordinary place for the delivery of health care, due in part to the uplifting effect of its colorful glazed brick exterior.

    The architects embraced a holistic design approach to the project. Connections between architecture, natural light, and landscape promote healing and root the building in its place. The use of color, natural materials, and attention to the entire sensory experience promote a restorative and positive environment. By using high-quality materials and developing an exterior expression that connects to a community’s history, the architects created a 100-year building.

    In order to merge architecture and well-being, the architects needed to translate the building’s functionality into its outward expression. They also needed to fulfill the primary design goal of creating a “landmark building, of its place and community.”

    Inspired by Ohio’s tradition of art pottery production, the design team used a blue-to-green color palette of the glazed brick that was inspired by ceramics glazes as well as the landform and color of the site. When taken in the context of the sky and landscape, the architecture continually provides a new experience, changing with the time of the day and the seasons.

    The unique exterior façade is composed of 11 colors and 19 shapes of glazed thin brick. The architects developed a system and color matrix only after extensive modeling phases. They started with painted architectural scale models, moving to full-scale foam core mock-ups, then to large-scale computer-generated prints of the pattern, and finally to full-scale mock-ups using the actual materials.

    The thin masonry veneer is used in conjunction with a fully insulated wall system, which allows the system to reduce energy consumption and related utility costs by 10% to 40%. Triple-pane glazing, coupled with the insulated precast panels, also provides an efficient thermal envelope to reduce mechanical demand and improve patient comfort.

    The aesthetic and technical approach to the distinctive façade has proven so successful that it is now being replicated on other Mercy Health facilities, supporting the organization’s objective of providing a consistent brand system-wide.

    For more of Back of the Yards High School, see its feature article in Brick In Architecture.  It will also appear in the December issue of Architect magazine.

    2014 Brick in Architecture Awards - Education (K-12) Winner - Back of the Yards High School

    The location of Chicago’s new Back of the Yards College Preparatory High School proved to be a tight squeeze. Bound by manufacturing facilities and railroad tracks, the 200,000-square-foot  building—along with its athletic fields and parking area—had to fit a site of less than nine acres.

    To delineate the different functions of the 1,200-student high school, the architects designed a continuous brick “ribbon wall” to serve as the building’s primary design element. This wall snakes back and forth to define three programmatic building volumes representing mind (academic), body (athletic), and spirit (arts). A texture of vertical slot windows of varying widths is overlaid onto the wall to provide a random and continuous pattern. Secondary elements feature masonry walls that connect perpendicularly to the ribbon walls and to the protruding aluminum and glass boxes, which set off the specialty areas in each programmatic volume.

    Next, the architects looked to the nature of the brick itself for inspiration. With the verticality of the slot windows in mind, the architects explored the design of the unit with the overall goal of increasing typical dimensions and providing a variation in unit size to promote the randomness. The design team worked closely with brick manufacturers to ensure special shapes and sizes could be produced and fit within the budget.

    The large brick face proved to be important as it allowed the architects to extend a random texture over the brick through scoring. From an onlooker’s perspective, the pattern is maximized and holds up visually over a long distance due to the oversized scale of the brick units.

    In addition, the design team specified special corner units to ensure continuity of pattern at the corners formed at door and window returns. They curved the corners at each turn of the brick ribbon wall by  using brick units that are curved to the 4-foot radius of the wall. This allows the two perpendicular walls to unify into a single serpentine expression without faceting the wall.

    In the end, the architects exploited many of brick’s design possibilities to create a truly unique and admired new high school.

    For more of Back of the Yards High School, see its feature article in Brick In Architecture.  It will also appear in the December issue of Architect magazine.

    2014 Brick in Architecture Awards - Educational Design (Colleges) Winner - Tozzer Anthropology Building

    After enduring years of scattered offices and classrooms, the Harvard anthropology department desired a new, consolidated space. With the help of Kennedy & Violich Architecture, the 1971 Tozzer Library was transformed from what was originally just a building wing into the independent Tozzer Anthropology Building. In short, the renovation would completely transform the building’s envelope and reunite the anthropology department for the first time in over 50 years.

    Tasked with strict guidelines from University officials, the architects worked within the administration’s following three criteria: the preservation of the existing infrastructure and foundation, an increase of building’s square footage by 25%, and the creation of a new public identity for the anthropology department.

    The architects chose a brick that expresses an authentic contemporary materiality, yet still resonates with the enduring quality of a nineteenth century structure. Although the new building uses brick veneer construction, one of its contemporary features is the meticulously corbelled brick detail at the entry.

    The building’s new entry features inclined courses that exactly follow the massing’s geometry. The corbelled brick details were digitally modeled course by course and mocked-up by local masons. A tilted metal stud back-up cantilevers past the second floor, creating a 30-foot brick entry that has no control joints or relieving angles but instead just one custom-designed loose lintel set above the hung brick ceiling.

    The main building is wrapped by thin, taught brick bands that express the existing slab, off of which the new brick envelope is relieved. Vertical expansion joints are staggered between floor levels while horizontal expansion joints occur behind recessed soldier courses. With a play of thick and thin, the design creates an authentic brick expression that reflects not only contemporary construction and existing reuse requirements, but also reflects the layered brick of the nearby Landmarked Peabody Museum.

    The project was designed to above LEED Gold Certification.

    For more of Tozzer Anthropology Building, see its feature article in Brick In Architecture.  It will also appear in the December issue of Architect magazine.