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Masonry Products

Masonry Products

  • TRENWYTH INDUSTRIES. This companys Astra-Glaze-SW is a pre-faced architectural concrete masonry block that has a thermoset glazing compound permanently molded to one or more faces. Manufacturing materials include up to 38% pre-consumer recycled slag from steel-making. The easy-to-clean impervious glazing is resistant to graffiti, staining, abrasion, impact, and chemicals, and it contains an integral water- and mold-repellent admixture, making the block ideal for high moisture or sanitary environments. Lightweight or medium-weight block is available for both interior and exterior load-bearing or nonload-bearing use. 800.233.1924. www.trenwyth.com.

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    TRENWYTH INDUSTRIES. This companys Astra-Glaze-SW is a pre-faced architectural concrete masonry block that has a thermoset glazing compound permanently molded to one or more faces. Manufacturing materials include up to 38% pre-consumer recycled slag from steel-making. The easy-to-clean impervious glazing is resistant to graffiti, staining, abrasion, impact, and chemicals, and it contains an integral water- and mold-repellent admixture, making the block ideal for high moisture or sanitary environments. Lightweight or medium-weight block is available for both interior and exterior load-bearing or nonload-bearing use. 800.233.1924. www.trenwyth.com.

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    TRENWYTH INDUSTRIES. This company’s Astra-Glaze-SW+ is a pre-faced architectural concrete masonry block that has a thermoset glazing compound permanently molded to one or more faces. Manufacturing materials include up to 38% pre-consumer recycled slag from steel-making. The easy-to-clean impervious glazing is resistant to graffiti, staining, abrasion, impact, and chemicals, and it contains an integral water- and mold-repellent admixture, making the block ideal for high moisture or sanitary environments. Lightweight or medium-weight block is available for both interior and exterior load-bearing or nonload-bearing use. 800.233.1924. www.trenwyth.com.

  • CALSTAR. This companys masonry pavers contain 40% post-industrial recycled content, including fly ash recovered from coal-fired power plants. The pavers, available in Holland and water-permeable styles, are made in a low-heat, high-humidity process that results in an 85% lower carbon footprint and eliminates the Portland cement used in standard concrete pavers. According to the manufacturer, a 1,000-square-foot patio of CalStar pavers diverts 5 tons of waste by-product from landfills, eliminates 3,420 pounds of CO2 emissions, and saves 2.25 million BTUs of energy. The sustainable pavers meet ASTM standards and contribute to multiple LEED credits. 877.700.9501. www.calstarproducts.com.

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    CALSTAR. This companys masonry pavers contain 40% post-industrial recycled content, including fly ash recovered from coal-fired power plants. The pavers, available in Holland and water-permeable styles, are made in a low-heat, high-humidity process that results in an 85% lower carbon footprint and eliminates the Portland cement used in standard concrete pavers. According to the manufacturer, a 1,000-square-foot patio of CalStar pavers diverts 5 tons of waste by-product from landfills, eliminates 3,420 pounds of CO2 emissions, and saves 2.25 million BTUs of energy. The sustainable pavers meet ASTM standards and contribute to multiple LEED credits. 877.700.9501. www.calstarproducts.com.

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    CALSTAR. This company’s masonry pavers contain 40% post-industrial recycled content, including fly ash recovered from coal-fired power plants. The pavers, available in Holland and water-permeable styles, are made in a low-heat, high-humidity process that results in an 85% lower carbon footprint and eliminates the Portland cement used in standard concrete pavers. According to the manufacturer, a 1,000-square-foot patio of CalStar pavers diverts 5 tons of waste by-product from landfills, eliminates 3,420 pounds of CO2 emissions, and saves 2.25 million BTUs of energy. The sustainable pavers meet ASTM standards and contribute to multiple LEED credits. 877.700.9501. www.calstarproducts.com.

  • CLAY MINE ADOBE. This company manufactures bio-based, sustainably sourced adobe block using a Portland cement stabilizer and traditional admixtures that include wheat straw and coarse aggregates. To prevent block erosion, clay plaster stucco up to 4 inches thick is typically applied, but the low-maintenance block requires no sealing and retains the authentic look of unstabilized adobe. Block is available in standard as well as custom sizes and natural custom colors. Cement-stabilized and unstabilized clay plaster in a variety of earth tones is also available. The Tucson-based company ships the materials throughout the Southwest. 520.578.2222. www.claymineadobe.com.

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    CLAY MINE ADOBE. This company manufactures bio-based, sustainably sourced adobe block using a Portland cement stabilizer and traditional admixtures that include wheat straw and coarse aggregates. To prevent block erosion, clay plaster stucco up to 4 inches thick is typically applied, but the low-maintenance block requires no sealing and retains the authentic look of unstabilized adobe. Block is available in standard as well as custom sizes and natural custom colors. Cement-stabilized and unstabilized clay plaster in a variety of earth tones is also available. The Tucson-based company ships the materials throughout the Southwest. 520.578.2222. www.claymineadobe.com.

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    CLAY MINE ADOBE. This company manufactures bio-based, sustainably sourced adobe block using a Portland cement stabilizer and traditional admixtures that include wheat straw and coarse aggregates. To prevent block erosion, clay plaster stucco up to 4 inches thick is typically applied, but the low-maintenance block requires no sealing and retains the authentic look of unstabilized adobe. Block is available in standard as well as custom sizes and natural custom colors. Cement-stabilized and unstabilized clay plaster in a variety of earth tones is also available. The Tucson-based company ships the materials throughout the Southwest. 520.578.2222. www.claymineadobe.com.

  • E-CRETE. This companys autoclaved aerated concrete block is a solid, high-performance masonry unit made with a low-energy process that emits no pollutants and creates no by-products or toxic waste products, according to the manufacturer. The finished block is resource-efficient, measuring twice the volume of the raw materials used, and its light weight can help reduce seismic mass and dead load design requirements. AAC block meets ASTM specifications for load-bearing compression, fire resistance, sound transmission, and more, and can contribute to LEED design. 866.508.5803. www.e-crete.com.

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    E-CRETE. This companys autoclaved aerated concrete block is a solid, high-performance masonry unit made with a low-energy process that emits no pollutants and creates no by-products or toxic waste products, according to the manufacturer. The finished block is resource-efficient, measuring twice the volume of the raw materials used, and its light weight can help reduce seismic mass and dead load design requirements. AAC block meets ASTM specifications for load-bearing compression, fire resistance, sound transmission, and more, and can contribute to LEED design. 866.508.5803. www.e-crete.com.

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    E-CRETE. This company’s autoclaved aerated concrete block is a solid, high-performance masonry unit made with a low-energy process that emits no pollutants and creates no by-products or toxic waste products, according to the manufacturer. The finished block is resource-efficient, measuring twice the volume of the raw materials used, and its light weight can help reduce seismic mass and dead load design requirements. AAC block meets ASTM specifications for load-bearing compression, fire resistance, sound transmission, and more, and can contribute to LEED design. 866.508.5803. www.e-crete.com.

  • GREEN LEAF BRICK. This companys building brick and brick pavers are made from 100% pre- and post-consumer recycled content sourced from suppliers that use only approved environmental processes, including scrubbing, in their waste streams. Recycled materials include glass and ceramics, iron oxides, industrial mining and steel-making slag, and incinerated sewage ash. All materials are acquired from suppliers within 500 miles of manufacturing plant locations. 704.307.0930. www.greenleafbrick.com.

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    GREEN LEAF BRICK. This companys building brick and brick pavers are made from 100% pre- and post-consumer recycled content sourced from suppliers that use only approved environmental processes, including scrubbing, in their waste streams. Recycled materials include glass and ceramics, iron oxides, industrial mining and steel-making slag, and incinerated sewage ash. All materials are acquired from suppliers within 500 miles of manufacturing plant locations. 704.307.0930. www.greenleafbrick.com.

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    GREEN LEAF BRICK. This company’s building brick and brick pavers are made from 100% pre- and post-consumer recycled content sourced from suppliers that use only approved environmental processes, including scrubbing, in their waste streams. Recycled materials include glass and ceramics, iron oxides, industrial mining and steel-making slag, and incinerated sewage ash. All materials are acquired from suppliers within 500 miles of manufacturing plant locations. 704.307.0930. www.greenleafbrick.com.

  • BORAL. This companys Country Ledgestone cultured stone veneer is the first NAHB Green Approved stone product and the industrys only Greenguard Children & Schools-certified masonry veneer, according to the manufacturer. Made with 54% pre-consumer recycled content, it can help contribute to LEED requirements, and its durability is covered by a 50-year limited warranty. This product was also ranked No. 1 by Builder magazine for usage, quality, and brand recognition. 866.557.8663. www.boralna.com.

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    BORAL. This companys Country Ledgestone cultured stone veneer is the first NAHB Green Approved stone product and the industrys only Greenguard Children & Schools-certified masonry veneer, according to the manufacturer. Made with 54% pre-consumer recycled content, it can help contribute to LEED requirements, and its durability is covered by a 50-year limited warranty. This product was also ranked No. 1 by Builder magazine for usage, quality, and brand recognition. 866.557.8663. www.boralna.com.

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    BORAL. This company’s Country Ledgestone cultured stone veneer is the first NAHB Green Approved stone product and the industry’s only Greenguard Children & Schools-certified masonry veneer, according to the manufacturer. Made with 54% pre-consumer recycled content, it can help contribute to LEED requirements, and its durability is covered by a 50-year limited warranty. This product was also ranked No. 1 by Builder magazine for usage, quality, and brand recognition. 866.557.8663. www.boralna.com.

  • OMNI BLOCK. This product is a concrete masonry unit designed to accommodate specially shaped insulating inserts of expanded polystyrene. As a result, the block can be used to create structural, stand-alone exterior walls that require no additional insulation, interior furring, or drywall framing. The block is manufactured in a low-embodied energy process using locally quarried raw materials, and the EPS inserts are made of nontoxic, chemically stable, CFC- and VOC-free recycled refinery waste. All block and insert materials are also 100% recyclable with zero formaldehyde content. Omni Block qualifies for LEED credits. 877.711.6664. www.omniblock.com.

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    OMNI BLOCK. This product is a concrete masonry unit designed to accommodate specially shaped insulating inserts of expanded polystyrene. As a result, the block can be used to create structural, stand-alone exterior walls that require no additional insulation, interior furring, or drywall framing. The block is manufactured in a low-embodied energy process using locally quarried raw materials, and the EPS inserts are made of nontoxic, chemically stable, CFC- and VOC-free recycled refinery waste. All block and insert materials are also 100% recyclable with zero formaldehyde content. Omni Block qualifies for LEED credits. 877.711.6664. www.omniblock.com.

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    OMNI BLOCK. This product is a concrete masonry unit designed to accommodate specially shaped insulating inserts of expanded polystyrene. As a result, the block can be used to create structural, stand-alone exterior walls that require no additional insulation, interior furring, or drywall framing. The block is manufactured in a low-embodied energy process using locally quarried raw materials, and the EPS inserts are made of nontoxic, chemically stable, CFC- and VOC-free recycled refinery waste. All block and insert materials are also 100% recyclable with zero formaldehyde content. Omni Block qualifies for LEED credits. 877.711.6664. www.omniblock.com.

When it comes to building materials, masonry is about as elemental as it gets. Available in many forms, from adobe to terra-cotta to brick and concrete, masonry products are typically cost-efficient, extremely durable, and recyclable. Much of the material that goes into these products is naturally abundant. In fact, most masonry building products are entirely natural, consisting of little more than earth itself—namely clay, silica, and other materials.

Based on this, one might think that masonry is the most environmentally acceptable type of building material, but this is not necessarily true. The raw materials must be excavated or mined, which can be ecologically disruptive. Because masonry is inherently heavy, the cost of transporting it from manufacturing plant to building site, and the fuel burned as a result, can be higher than for competing materials. And despite its basic earthen makeup, some amount of processing, along with considerable heat for cement and kiln-fired masonry, is typically required to transform the raw materials into finished products. These efforts can require significant energy consumption and produce carbon dioxide and other environmentally harmful by-products.

Manufacturers and associations representing masonry products defend their green building value, saying that the raw materials are generally available in most locations and easily obtainable with limited environmental impact. Proponents also cite the sustainability of masonry compared with other building materials, and they note that, after manufacture, the products are inert and can be ground up for use as clean fill or recycled into other masonry products. These claims are supported by the fact that masonry building products contribute toward green building credits in LEED, National Green Building Standard, and other programs.

Improvements to masonry products have been developed to reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing and transportation, improve the materials’ insulating properties, and increase their overall green building value. Innovations such as autoclaved aerated concrete, using fly ash and industrial waste as binders, and even returning to pre-industrial products and production methods (like adobe) are just a few of the alternatives available to builders.

Masonry manufacturers are also striving to meet the challenges of increasingly demanding energy codes, green building standards, and industry initiatives like the 2030 Challenge for Products, a new program that has set carbon-metric goals that include a 50% reduction in the “carbon footprint” of building materials by the year 2030.

Here’s a rundown of considerations to keep in mind when evaluating masonry products:

Adobe is perhaps the most basic masonry block. This prototypical “mud” brick has been used in construction throughout the world since the beginning of recorded time. It is manufactured and used here in limited applications, primarily in the American Southwest, due mainly to its indigenous architectural value. Although it can be made locally from almost any common soil mixed with a small amount of binder, such as straw or even animal dung, manufacturers today add stabilizers, including Portland cement and asphalt emulsion, to provide consistency and strength. Traditionally, adobe is made at the building site, sun-dried and stacked without mortar, then parged with a thick stucco coating, all of which adds to its energy-saving, environmental, and economical credit. However, it is less durable and more difficult to transport than other masonry products, and suitable mainly for structures in areas with low humidity and little rainfall.

Brick is a similarly ancient building block composed primarily of clay and silica. But because brick is baked or “fired” in a kiln, it is transformed into an extremely hard, durable ceramic material that resists erosion from water and wear. Various materials like lime, iron oxides, and magnesium, along with colorants, can be added during manufacture to impart a range of desired qualities, such as hardness, density, appearance, and uniformity. As with adobe, brick has distinct environmental attributes, including sustainability and recyclability, and the fact that its basic materials are locally or regionally sourced. However, the prolonged heat required to fire it and the energy used to transport its considerable bulk weigh against it as a green building material (according to one source, transporting brick for just 10 miles via horse cart in 18th century England could more than double its price).

Terra-cotta (Latin for baked earth) is another contemporary “all-natural” building product rooted in history. A ceramic, clay-based material much like brick, it is typically baked into tiles for use in flooring, roofing, and exterior cladding. In modern construction, terra-cotta is often used for rain-screen systems or ornamental embellishment on commercial buildings. It is commonly used as a structural building block in Europe and elsewhere, but not in the United States. Terra-cotta products used here are typically imported, so transportation weight, bulk, and cost are factors that limit its green building value, along with the heat energy and carbon dioxide generated in its production.

Concrete blocks and pavers, along with clay brick, are the most widely used structural masonry products in the United States and perhaps the world. Concrete is relatively inexpensive, can be mixed on-site or locally sourced and formed into virtually any shape, and, although it is easily recycled, it is as close to indestructible as any man-made building material ever produced. On the downside, the key ingredient in concrete is Portland cement, a manufactured material with high embodied-energy content. According to the Portland Cement Association, the industry has worked diligently to improve this process, and since 1972 has reduced energy consumption and fuel CO2 emissions in manufacturing by more than 37%. The association claims that cement production today “accounts for less than 3% of all U.S. industrial CO2 emissions, well below other sources” such as the petroleum, chemical, and iron and steel industries.

Over the years, substitute binder materials have been developed to reduce or eliminate Portland cement in concrete, such as industrial by-products like fly ash, steel slag, agricultural waste, and recycled post-consumer waste. New types of products have been created as well, such as pervious concrete pavers, which allow rain and groundwater to naturally drain into the soil through patios and parking areas. Autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) is another innovation with green building benefits—precast blocks are resource-efficient, lightweight, and thermally insulating. However, AAC has only half the compressive strength of standard concrete, and, because it is porous and relatively soft, it must be parge-coated or enclosed to prevent deterioration.

The bottom line in all this is that most structural masonry products will contribute to green building credits simply because of their inherent sustainability, but builders can improve the performance, quality, and desirability of a structure by choosing masonry units that offer additional benefits such as resource efficiency, reduced weight, insulating value, recycled content, and other environmental attributes whenever possible. Masonry has always been an intrinsic part of residential construction. The innovations available in today’s materials just make it better.

Michael Morris, a former carpenter and builder, reports on construction topics as an EcoHome contributing editor.