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.
There are many reasons to use masonry in building. The single most commonly used reason not to use masonry is cost. Wood, steel, plastic, and glass are all cheaper cladding. Even CMU’s and brick are pricier than most other options.
But cost is always relative in construction. What seems cheap when installed can be pretty expensive if it needs replacement in the short term—and chronic maintenance of any building component is painful beyond the dollars-and-cents cost.
All matter breaks down over time. The structures that surround us today are no exception to that law of physics. Some building materials are more durable than others, but unfortunately the days of structures surviving thousands of years, like the Egyptian pyramids and Roman cathedrals, is over. Most of the structures erected today have a life expectancy of less than 100 years. Therefore, preventive maintenance of building exteriors has become more important than ever.