Nothing says sustainability more than preserving, restoring and repurposing existing buildings. The greenest buildings today are those already built. Masonry is a sustainable, resilient material that can survive floods and fires. It is the oldest and most permanent building material, exuding a sense of permanence, longevity, quality, reliability and familiarity, yet it is forgiving and flexible. Many brick buildings that were built more than 100 years ago are continuing to fulfill their original purposes, while others have been adapted for new purposes.
Masonry, one of the oldest and most beautiful trades, has been on a steady decline since the 1960s. Due to dramatic changes in the way today’s homes, chimneys, foundations and steps are being constructed, the industry is at its lowest point in 80 years. The average age of masonry professionals is increasing and the number entering apprenticeships is declining. In the northeast corner of the U.S., a Maine-based masonry company is quietly working to revive the declining industry through new product development and innovation.
Bricks Incorporated got its start in the late 1960s as a demolition and salvage company in Chicago. When an old factory or home was scheduled for demolition, the company salvaged any desirable materials, including brick, steel, terra cotta and copper, then packaged and sold it for reuse. In the 1970s, the company scrapped the demolition business while continuing to salvage materials, and diversified into the manufacture of new brick and stone.
Shortly before 1 p.m. on Feb. 22, 2011, Christchurch, New Zealand, started to shake. Ten seconds are all it took to change the landscape and the lives of residents: 185 dead, several thousand injured, and 45 percent of buildings deemed unsafe to enter. While many of the deaths in the earthquake occurred in a small number of building collapses, unreinforced masonry (URM) construction suffered widespread damage. However, while the Royal Commission Report identified that 97 percent of the unstrengthened URM buildings in the Central Business District were either seriously damaged or collapsed, only 20 percent of buildings that had been retrofit to a high level experienced serious damage.
Although peak tornado season typically occurs April through June, violent outbursts struck early this year and featured one of the largest tornado events to ever occur in winter. The January 21–23 spate of storms produced 79 confirmed tornadoes across the Deep South from Texas to South Carolina, resulting in the second-deadliest January outbreak on record. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. averages more than 1,000 tornadoes per year — more than any other country. Annual insurance losses from U.S. tornadoes and thunderstorms range in the billions, with the costliest event occurring in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and nearby areas in April 2011, resulting in $7.8 billion in insured damages.
Everyone knows that Americans need to get outside and get active. Report after report shows that obesity and inactivity are making us sicker and shortening our lives. Despite all the studies and surveys, convincing us to shed our sedentary ways has proven to be a tough sell for health advocates. Masonry may be part of the solution, making the great outdoors a place where more of us want to be.
What do you get when you mix 30,000 pieces of existing exterior façade stone, a quarry that is no longer in use, and a team of 13 AEC and trade professionals from around the globe? You get the prestigious 2016 Grande Pinnacle Award from the MIA+BSI for the exterior restoration of the Minnesota State Capitol Building in St. Paul.
This was no ordinary brick laying. Forty-one years after Atlanta Braves slugger Hank Aaron hit his historic 715th home run — the one that surpassed Babe Ruth’s all-time record — he carefully slid a trowel with mortar across a red brick and placed it alongside another emblazoned with words commemorating the start of construction of the Braves’ new stadium, SunTrust Park.
Good companies are always looking for ways to add value for their customers. The best ones are able to grow their business while doing it. Bahler Brothers, a design-build firm in Connecticut, has discovered that outdoor lighting adds substantial value to their masonry projects. Combining masonry and lighting extends the hours their customers can enjoy their outdoor living area. This was the case with a recent Bahler Brothers installation in Massachusetts that won a 2016 Hardscape North America Project Award in one of the residential categories.
The front yard of a charming, craftsman-style home in central New Jersey, built in 1926, has a winding front walkway of interlocking pavers around a lighted koi pond with a natural stone waterfall. Connecting to a side driveway of interlocking concrete pavers the path leads to a rear deck and detached garage. Hardscape lighting was important to the long-time owners, a senior couple who sought needed demarcation for safety, in addition to desired visual aesthetics and curb appeal. The small footprint and understated, 2 -inch round design of Evening Star® paver lights provided both of these benefits in a low-voltage, accent lighting option for all paved areas around the home.