Home » BIM and Architecture » Brick masonry as a revolutionary material


Brick masonry as a revolutionary material

What is brick masonry? What are the different types and uses in construction? And what are its advantages? Discover all this in the following article

Brick masonry has been the cornerstone of construction for centuries due to its characteristics of strength, durability, and aesthetics. In this article, we will explore in detail what brick masonry is, its various types, and its applications in modern construction.

At the bottom of the article, you can also watch a video showing you how you can use an architectural design software to incorporate this material into your building projects.

Brick masonry as a revolutionary material

Brick masonry as a revolutionary material

What is brick masonry

Brick masonry is an artificial construction material mainly obtained by firing clay in specialized kilns or, in the past, often by simple sun drying. This term also originates from the properties of the gens Laterana, a noble Roman family, referring to the numerous buildings owned by the family and constructed with baked clay bricks. Bricks are construction materials widely used since prehistoric times, characterized by a porous paste that gives them excellent thermal insulation and sound absorption properties.

The composition of bricks varies, but they are generally primarily made of purified clay, with the addition of calcium carbonate and water. These materials are properly prepared, molded, and dried before being fired in special kilns. Among the main types of bricks, we find solid and perforated bricks, extruded, wire-cut, moulded, dry-pressed and other architectural ornaments used in construction. A particular type of brick is the clinker, obtained by firing raw materials at very high temperatures.

Types of bricks

The classification of bricks based on their shape, size, and degree of perforation is essential to understand the various types and their specific uses in construction. Let’s examine each category more closely.

Solid bricks

Solid bricks represent one of the main and most traditional categories of bricks. They are characterized by a low percentage of voids, usually less than 15%, which gives them greater density and structural strength. These bricks are commonly used for the construction of load-bearing walls, where higher load capacity is required. Ordinary solid bricks, with their various shapes and sizes, are commonly used for the construction of external and internal walls. Terracotta tiles, on the other hand, are widely used for external pavements, wall claddings, and other decorative applications due to their resistance and the many aesthetic options available.

Semi-solid and perforated bricks

Semi-solid and perforated bricks are characterized by a higher percentage of voids compared to solid bricks. This makes these materials lighter but still robust, making them ideal for the construction of partition walls, infills, and for the construction of lightweight floors. Semi-solid bricks include bricks and blocks with a void percentage between 15% and 45%. Perforated bricks, on the other hand, have a void percentage of more than 45%. Both offer good structural resistance and can be used in a wide range of building applications.

Specific types of bricks

In addition to traditional bricks and blocks, there are several specific types of bricks designed for particular purposes. For example, slabs and planks are mainly used for the construction of floors and horizontal structures. These bricks are designed to be lightweight yet sturdy, allowing the construction of durable and resistant floors. “Pignatte” and “volterrane” are also used for floors but have specific dimensions and shapes to adapt to structural needs. These elements are essential for lightening concrete floors and ensuring a uniform distribution of loads.

Bricks for roofing

Finally, there are bricks for roofing, such as tiles and roofing tiles, used for the construction of roofs and coverings. These bricks must be frost-resistant and waterproof to ensure effective protection against moisture and weathering. Tiles, with their characteristic shape, offer continuous coverage of roof slopes, while roofing tiles, with their truncated cone shape, allow for a more uniform and aesthetically pleasing covering.

Brick elements

Brick elements

Uses of brick masonry

Brick masonry is a highly versatile material widely used in various stages of construction, from foundation to roof covering. One of its main applications is in the construction of external walls of buildings, where it exploits its thermal properties and moisture regulation to ensure a comfortable indoor environment. Additionally, bricks are commonly used for load-bearing walls, providing structural stability and weather resistance.

Recent innovations in the industry include rectified bricks, designed for precise and facilitated laying, and cellular bricks aimed at improving the energy performance of buildings thanks to their thermal insulation capacity. These bricks are characterized by a porous structure that offers greater thermal insulation than traditional bricks, albeit at the expense of reduced mechanical strength.

Bricks can also be used for the creation of innovative technical elements, such as plastered tiles, which combine the solidity of bricks with easy installation thanks to a shaped plaster layer that facilitates insertion.

Regarding masonry, bricks are used for both load-bearing and non-load-bearing walls. Solid bricks are preferred for load-bearing structures, thanks to their resistance and compactness, while semi-solid or perforated bricks are used for non-load-bearing walls, such as partition walls or infills.

In chimneys and flues, bricks offer good heat resistance and are impermeable to gases and condensation, ensuring the safe operation of heating systems.

In the context of floors, bricks are used for various applications, such as lightweight elements with blocks , coatings of reinforced concrete structures, and the construction of lintels.

They can also be used for the creation of partitions, contributing to the division of interior spaces of buildings.

In the context of roofing, bricks are used for the creation of tiles, chimneys, and flues, offering frost resistance and waterproofing, ensuring the durability and effectiveness of coverings.

Moreover, bricks offer numerous aesthetic possibilities for building facades, with special and decorative pieces that give a unique character to exposed masonry. Thanks to their versatility and continuous innovations in the industry, bricks maintain a central role in modern construction, combining structural solidity with increasingly efficient energy performance.

In general, bricks are widely used for the construction of external walls, where they regulate heat and moisture flow, ensuring comfort and structural stability to buildings. Their ability to gradually absorb and release heat makes them ideal for improving the energy efficiency of buildings.

Examples of brick masonry use

Examples of brick masonry use

Advantages of using brick masonry

Building with brick masonry offers a series of significant advantages ranging from energy efficiency to durability, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness. Brick solutions are particularly appreciated for their ability to meet multiple needs, ensuring high indoor comfort and long-lasting performance.
Here’s a brief list of the most common advantages of this material:

  1. Versatility – Brick masonry perfectly adapts to a wide range of architectural projects. Brick solutions can be used for walls, facades, and roofs, as well as for gardens, terraces, and open spaces. Their flexibility makes them suitable for any architectural style, from traditional to contemporary, and can be used in a variety of contexts, from private homes to public buildings;
  2. Energy efficiency – Thanks to excellent insulating properties and thermal mass, brick masonry solutions significantly contribute to reducing the energy consumption of buildings. Brick bricks help maintain a comfortable temperature indoors, reducing the need for artificial heating and cooling and contributing to the overall sustainability of the building;
  3. Durability – Brick masonry solutions are extremely robust and stable, ensuring long-term durability. Brick bricks can last over 100 years, with numerous examples of buildings maintaining their structural integrity for centuries. Fire resistance, weather resistance, and earthquake resistance make brick an ideal choice for safe and durable constructions;
  4. Cost-effectiveness – Building with brick masonry can lead to significant cost savings both during construction and in the long term. Brick blocks allow for rapid execution of works without material waste, reducing production and labor costs. Additionally, low maintenance costs and energy efficiency benefits further contribute to reducing the overall building management costs over the years;
  5. Sustainability – Brick is a natural and sustainable material, primarily made from raw clay and other natural materials. Brick masonry solutions are designed to maximize the use of recyclable materials and come from sustainable sources, thus reducing the overall environmental impact of construction. Furthermore, the durability of brick means that buildings constructed with this material retain their value over time and can be easily resold or reused, contributing to the circular economy.