by David Patterson
Lightweight materials such as glass and steel are very much de rigeur (think of any of the recent BCO winner and they’ll most likely have predilection for one of the two), but the humble brick is having a quiet revival, particularly here at Make, as its sense of permanence, of durability, of tradition can not be beaten.
The BRE’s latest Green Guide to Specification has assigned the highest possible accreditation, A+, to every external wall it rated that contained brickwork. Bricks thermal mass capabilities are superb. And in a 2007 investigation by RICS brickwork beat just about every other external skin option on price. As the preserve of the volume house builder for decades that last fact may not come as a surprise, but at Make, we have been keen to understand how bricks can be used in a building where design and function do not have to be mutually exclusive. We’ve been researching this material, talking to colleagues and visiting manufacturers in order to develop our knowledge of brick and further understand its potential.
We’ve been exploring how brick can be used on the Amenities Building project for the University of Nottingham – a bar and dining hall on their agricultural campus that has to be robust and sustainable. We looked at how the appearance of brick can be used to create a warm and welcoming environment, both internally and externally. In addition we considered how it can be used to form efficient service voids within the wall structure and by manipulating the bond in order to achieve calm acoustic environments. We spent time with our client visiting UK brick manufacturers and constructing sample walls on site to evaluate the materials in context.
For Taberner House in Croydon, we’re working closely with Arup Materials and are considering innovative options for brickwork. It is our aspiration to make the brickwork ‘earn its keep’ by contributing to the structural performance of the building rather than the conventional approach of brick as a cladding material. This presents significant challenges as very few modern buildings have been built utilising a structural brickwork approach.
One thing I’ve noticed while working on these two projects is that the UK’s brick tradition is in danger of being lost as the large conglomerates buy up the smaller firms. There are some fine examples of design-led brick buildings in this country, now there needs to be a focus on the product and process to entice more architects to convert.
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