1.2 The Financial, Environmental & Health Advantages of Brick and Stone
The Financial, Environmental & Health Advantages of Brick and Stone
Brick and stone are home building options that pay off financially, and you don’t even need to wait forever to enjoy the benefits. Although bottom-of-the-barrel vinyl siding may cost $4 per square foot installed, paying $16 to $20 per square foot for brick or stone actually makes financial sense because these materials deliver more value for your money. They’re an investment over the long haul, but even if you’re looking at your home strictly as a short-term investment, brick and stone still pay off because of the physical benefits they offer. And that premium you pay up front translates into proportionally more money when it comes time to sell. Beyond the immediate term, a brick or stone wall will also continue to look new for longer than other materials, so the long-term financial pay-off is actually higher. Here’s a mathematical example involving two identical bungalows, one with vinyl siding and one with brick.
Financial advantage of brick and stone
For analysis, let’s compare two one-storey bungalows. To keep things simple, let’s also make them square, 40 feet on each side, or about 1,600 square feet of floor space. The total area of all four exterior walls (assuming they’re 10 feet tall) is 40' x 10' x 4 = 1,600 sq. ft. of wall surface. We’ll deduct 15% for windows and doors, leaving 1,360 sq. ft. of wall area.
If brick costs $22 per sq. ft. and vinyl costs $4 per sq. ft., the brick costs $18 more per square foot than vinyl siding. The extra out-of-pocket cost of brick over vinyl is $24,480 ($18 x 1,360 sq. ft = $24,480.00).
The generally accepted rule of thumb is that brick increases a home’s value by at least 6%, all else being equal. So, assuming the value of the vinyl-sided home is $500,000, the value of the brick home would be 106% of this, which is $530,000. That’s a $30,000 boost in value for the brick home, at an additional cost of just under $25,000. That’s an excellent return on investment.
The real increase in value, though, is in the ongoing technical benefits of having a brick home – its durability, moisture management, freedom from exterior maintenance and fire protection.
Environmental benefits of brick & stone
Everyone makes choices in life, and many of these choices affect your health and the environment. Perhaps the most misunderstood environmental choices of all have to do with our homes and how they’re built. Masonry has a lot going for it:
- Brick and stone have one of the longest working lives of all building materials, reducing annual environmental impact substantially compared with other materials – simply because this stuff lasts so long. Any decent brick will last much longer than 100 years. Some of the brick buildings you see here in the course have outlived many generations of people.
- There is nearly zero waste of raw materials in manufacturing clay brick, the world’s most popular masonry material for building homes. Manufacturing bricks is a simple process that creates a trustworthy finished product.
- Both brick and stone come from the earth and are non-toxic during and after manufacture. In the video coming up you can see the shale, one common material that’s ground into a powder to create the clay used to make modern bricks. Shale is as safe as dirt or any rock.
- All types of masonry are easily and safely recyclable when its working life is over. Bricks and stone can be reused and repurposed.
- Most masonry building materials are made from locally sourced components simply because it makes financial and practical sense to manufacture them as close as possible to end users.
Watch the video up next for an overview of why it’s easy to like brick.
Exterior wall options
There’s a mistaken idea that only modern homebuilding materials and methods are durable and environmentally sound. The old ways were the bad old days, right? No, not necessarily, and stone and brick are prime examples.
TECH TIP: What is LEED and why it matters
LEED is an acronym that stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.” LEED is a voluntary program that awards points to individual projects, depending on the environmentally-sound construction principles incorporated into a completed building.
The environmental benefits of brick and stone mean they can contribute LEED points to a project, depending on how they were manufactured. If green construction is important to you, ask your architect or designer to look into choosing masonry options that contribute to LEED standings. Different brick and stone will count for different LEED points. The LEED system is one important way that worthwhile environmental design features can be recognized, quantified and rewarded.
Brick and stone are heavy, of course; to cut down on the costs and environmental impact of delivery, manufacturing plants tend to be located near major cities. That means you may find some masonry products are not manufactured near you, but chances are many good choices will be available.
Environmental responsibility is also about what happens to the material when a building isn’t needed any more. Masonry is one of the most recyclable materials going, and a story from my own family illustrates the point.
My grandfather worked most of his life in the massive red brick Goodyear tire factory (above) built in New Toronto in 1917. I remember the day when Grandpa took me out to see the old plant being demolished in 1989. It was a sad moment as I thought of all the families that had enjoyed a lifetime’s livelihood from that plant. This was the place where half of all the tires used in Canada were once made.
As sad as it is to see any building coming down, this massive red brick structure was still useful. The brick was crushed on-site for reuse elsewhere. No toxins, no landfill, no hazardous waste, just honest, useful, reddish-brown crushed rubble. What could be more safely recyclable than that?
Health benefits of brick and stone
Stone and brick both contribute to healthy homes. One of the challenges of modern home building is the need to let moisture vapor escape from wall systems, while also keeping out liquid moisture (rain and snow). Most people are surprised to learn that exterior wall frames can absorb quite a bit of internal moisture over the course of a winter as warm indoor air cools and condenses internally within the walls. The largest sources of moisture in homes are bathing, cooking and breathing. The failure of buildings to let trapped moisture escape is one factor in “sick building syndrome” and while it’s a significant issue, of course it’s not inevitable.
Sick building syndrome has different causes, but the results are always the same: people get unnecessarily ill when indoors, especially during winter. Synthetic exterior cladding options may be good at keeping water out, but if moisture ever does get behind them (and it certainly can and does, sometimes through flaws around windows and doors) that moisture will easily trigger mold growth if it can’t dry out. Brick veneer is one of the best options for keeping rain out, but it’s also great at letting trapped moisture vapor escape. That’s a good thing. With an air space between bricks and the wall frame, along with drainage holes at the bottom of the brick between mortar joints, the system is designed to let moisture escape. It’s a time-tested approach and a healthy one, too.
The video explains standard brick veneer wall structures and how they handle moisture. You should know how this system works to make sure your place is built correctly.