Crescent House. Photography: Christopher Frederick Jones.
Wild cyclones. Out-of-control bushfires. As climate change impacts us like never before, we examine if brick has outstripped other building materials in terms of durability and safety.
Australia is a land of extremes, especially when it comes to the weather. Our country’s harsh climate can range from staggering heat to raging cyclones, from lengthy droughts to golf-ball-sized hail.
So it is essential that our homes are built to withstand the most severe weather events that Mother Nature throws at us, which is why brick is an ideal building solution for the harsh Australian climate.
Brick is weather and age-proof, able to withstand even the harshest of conditions. This is particularly important in the face of predictions by climate change experts that the world’s weather is only going to get more and more extreme.
Building with bricks allows peace of mind because they do not require upkeep or repairs to maintain their durability. They are resilient to cracking and frosting, won’t erode in extreme wind, and there is minimal risk that they will break down or be impacted by humidity.
Photograph: Bricks are resilient to cracking and frosting. Image credit Sam Noonan.
Furthermore, rain streaks or dirt and debris associated with a major weather event will be less noticeable on bricks too, compared with materials such as render which can cost a fortune to repair.
In a country where the risk of bushfire is always present, bricks also make incredibly good sense. Kiln-fired at extremely high temperatures (up to 1200°C), they are non-combustible and will help to confine a fire.
Along with structural integrity and durability, bricks are an excellent temperature regulator due to their thermal mass. In winter, brick walls will provide warmth, while on a scorching day in summer they will cool things down, as well as absorb some humidity. In turn, this reduces power bills as less energy is used to power heating or cooling appliances.
Photograph: The perfect material for winter or summer. Image credit Christopher Frederick Jones.
Bricks also score high in relation to the environment, as they are created from organic materials found in shale and clay. And while all building materials use energy in their creation, brick’s combination of longevity, durability and low maintenance outweigh however much embodied energy they have generated. They also help boost green building credits in such ratings programs as Green Star and LEED.
Being naturally resistant to pests and free from contaminants are other selling points of this ageless building material (the first structure made from sun-baked bricks was built in Mesopotamia around 4000BCE).
Photograph: The striding lion, Neo-Babylon era, made from vibrant glazed bricks. Image via Met Museum.
And with a huge range of bricks now available, in ever-expanding colourways, they make perfect sense as our climate veers from one extreme to the other.