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Brick, a "clean" material that benefits from sustainable development

sulu wooden house.

For several years now, it has been difficult to escape the expression “sustainable development”. Kyoto in 2005, Copenhagen in 2009, Grenelle de l'Environnement from 2007 to 2012, COP21 in Paris in 2015… made this concept of sustainability very much in the media, which in fact had already existed for more than a century. Meeting the needs of the present without harming the following generations : the definition of sustainable development. Construction represents one of the main challenges of this sustainable development, with the need to use materials much less polluting than concrete. The brick is thus making a comeback.

The return to favor of "clean" materials

In the particular case of construction, so-called “ecological” works are increasingly developed in order to limit the environmental impact of buildings as much as possible. “Ecomaterials” are one of the key elements of this ecological work, characterized by their very low carbon footprint.

If the very word "ecomaterials" is a neologism that still defies dictionaries, the vast majority of materials thus designated have paradoxically been used by man since sometimes antiquity, such as brick. It is thus a true homecoming materials used before the advent of the all-concrete, 19th and especially 20th centuries

Brick saw itself saved at the turn of the 21 st century by the threat of global warming and the need to develop alternatives to concrete. In a context of gloomy construction to say the least, a study by the French Federation of Tiles and Bricks (FFTB) underlines the good health of this market. For individual houses, 36% of them were built with terracotta bricks in 2010 against 40% in 2013. This trend is even more visible for collective housing: 9% in 2010 against 20% in 2013.

In total, one in three homes is now made of terracotta bricks. France is one of the largest producer and exporter in the world, with a turnover of 871 million euros in 2014 (however slightly down). 130 factories are scattered throughout the country, directly or indirectly employing 105,000 people.

Bricks of all kinds

While brick is an all-natural building material, there are many variations, not all of which use earth as the basic building block. Terracotta brick is probably the most popular, but requires the use of furnaces emitting greenhouse gases. The monomur brick also uses terracotta, but in a much more ventilated way, which reinforces the thermal insulation and therefore reduces energy expenditure.

In contrast, mud brick is produced using presses which directly compress the earth without heating it, thus obtaining an excellent carbon footprint. Little known in France, sand-lime brick is frequently used in the countries of northwestern Europe for its aesthetic whiteness. Composed of water, lime, siliceous sand and limestone, it has a high density, synonymous with sound insulation and fire resistance.

Brick hemp uses this almost extinct plant in France in the late 21 th century, signing since his comeback. Excellent thermal and acoustic insulator, hemp brick is the ecomaterial par excellence. There is also a wooden brick, or wooden block ("BVB"), ideal for self-construction, and with ecological performance defying competition from concrete by far.

Glass bricks, especially used in collective housing, allow light to pass through and illuminate dark areas. In a more original way, there are also “ Save Water Bricks ” in South Korea, bricks made from recycled materials (glass bottles and rotten leaves) to absorb water. Finally, Timbercrete sandstone brick is used as an exterior finish to reinforce sound and thermal insulation. Ultra light, this brick from Australia can even be nailed to the load-bearing wall!

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