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Building your space brick by brick

The cost of block walls per metre cube of hollow concrete masonry comes out to be 17.65 per cent less than that of brick walls.  

When it comes to choosing masonry material, the price tag overwhelms the quality tag more often than not.

For centuries, the timeless and humble brick has been the ‘go-to-material’ in masonry and, even today, they continue to lend sustainability and durability to either traditional or contemporary architecture. But the rapid advancements in the construction industry has brought about many changes in its modus operandi, and more and more people today prefer faster and much cheaper alternatives at the expense of environmental sustainability and durability.

The heated debate about the relative advantages of brick and block has been going on for some time now but the fact is, the choice between brick and block comes down more to the way one wants the actual build to progress and how flexible the space will be in the future. Bricks themselves have a high thermal mass (i.e. the ability to store heat). Practically speaking, this means that the walls will absorb heat during the day, and release it slowly at night, helping to maintain an even temperature.

A home that is warm in winter and cool in summer-clay bricks are well noted for their remarkable thermal insulation properties. Clay bricks have the ability to store heat energy, allowing them to amass energy during the day and release it at night. Bricks are also a surprisingly sustainable and eco-friendly product, often made from materials that would otherwise be heading for landfill and fully recyclable at the end of their life. It also goes without saying that brick walls are incredibly durable maintain them well and they could quite easily last for centuries. The diverse and unique hues of the natural soil used in the production of red bricks and their mostly uniform shape makes them extremely adaptable to nice, complex designs. With the popularity of using organic materials in the architecture and interior design, clay brick is experiencing a resurging popularity. Currently, exposed brick work is a major trend in modern interiors.

In the move towards lofty apartments and business units, it is often the material of choice – for its industrial-type feel, as well as its durability and its great insulating qualities.

The density of clay bricks also allows them to offer effective acoustic insulation. Red brick walls are extremely good at dampening sounds and so work well near industrial zones, noisy areas, or simply in heavily populated residential areas.

Unlike conventional bricks, red brick walls take a very long time to burn. This is because compressed earth bricks are so dense that they offer little space for combustion to happen. Walls built from clay bricks receive a maximum fire rating, meaning that clay bricks will resist a fully developed fire for a generous length of time when compared to other building materials.

Red bricks are less wasteful and make designing and cost evaluation of buildings much easier. Regular construction sizes leave fewer gaps between the components thus reducing the material and labour costs as the need for mortar to fill the gaps is decreased.

According to Ratheesh Kumar, the managing director of Beacon Projects, as a matter of fact, block masonry is cheaper and hence more economical than brick masonry. Currently the market cost of brick masonry (per cubic metre) is Rs.8,500 whereas that of block masonry is Rs.1,500 cheaper.

The cost of block walls per metre cube of hollow concrete masonry comes out to be 17.65 per cent less than that of brick walls. So, block masonry is economical than brick masonry. However it can be seen that, barring the savings on initial cost the brick masonry construction is far more advantageous than the cement hollow block masonry. That too considering the heavy maintenance cost in the long run, the initial cost saving becomes irrelevant.

At the end of the day opting for brick over block masonry does make a lot of sense considering the fact that it offers much more for a little extra cost. So then, the real question here is on which would you be willing to make a compromise?

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Printable version | Jan 10, 2021 9:22:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/bricks-vs-block-masonry/article7665183.ece

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