Wienerberger Manufacturing Brick Products

Production

Wienerberger has a responsibility to ensure that natural resources are available for future generations. Explore the key stages of our production process and how we manage resources below

Find out how we manage natural resources including energy, water and biodiversity at our factories around the UK.

  • How are our products made?

How are our products made?

Brick making is both a science and an art. Wienerberger produces a diverse range of clay products in various dimensions, textures and colours, which requires the skills of material scientists, engineers, geologists, and project managers to name just a few. The principles behind producing bricks, pavers and clay roof tiles are similar.

Raw materials

The most important raw material for our ceramic products (bricks, pavers and roof tiles) is clay, however sand, additives and colour pigments are included in the product mix. Most of our factories have a dedicated quarry in close proximity to the factory, resulting in very short transport distances for clay to the production site. This also means Wienerberger has good oversight of the environmental and social practices for the majority of our material supply chain. When quarries reach their end of life they are restored to natural habitats where wildlife can flourish.

Clay pit at production facility Lantenne

Preparation

Following extraction from a quarry, the clay is prepared by grinding and milling to achieve consistency and homogeneity in particle size. Water, sand and other additives such as recycled or secondary-sourced materials are mixed with the clay at this stage.

 

 

 

 

Raw material preparation at factory.

Shaping

The two most common types of brick are named after the way they formed. An extruded brick is produced when clay is pressed into shape through extrusion dies and subsequently cut into individual bricks. Whereas soft mud bricks, with their higher moisture content, are pressed into singular molds then turned out onto a tray.

 

Wienerberger's roof tiles have custom designed moulds in which our innovative products are formed. These allow us to create new shapes and product features which make Wienerberger roof tiles unique.

Production of shaping materials

Drying

The shaped products are then stacked on re-usable metal pallets or kiln cars and transported to the dryer. The drying process prepares the bricks for firing by extracting moisture from the soft "green" bricks. Depending on the type of product, the drying period ranges from 4 to 45 hours. During this time, the moisture content drops to below 2%.

Clay tile production at production plant Lantenne-Vertière, France Koramic, Aucune, Monde

Firing

After drying, the products are transferred to a kiln where they fired in the range 1000-1100oC. This high temperature is necessary to establish the inherent durability, strength and fire-resistance associated with clay construction products. Wienerberger engineers are continuously working to reduce the energy consumption of the firing process. Innovations in raw material management, kiln technologies and firing techniques have all improved our energy efficiency in recent years.

An image of gas pipes at kiln firing station zone in one of Wienerberger UK's factory.

Packaging and delivery

After the fired products have cooled, they undergo a quality inspection and are packed ready for dispatch. We use recyclable plastic shrink wrap hood and strapping that provide the necessary protection for transportation whilst using the minimum quantity of packaging. The majority of Wienerberger bricks and pavers are stacked in a pattern that allows transportation by forklifts without use of a wooden pallet, however pallets are used for transporting roof tiles and some higher value products.

With factories located in the south, midlands and north of England, transport distances between production and construction sites can be kept to a minimum, further reducing the environmental impact of our operations.

Packaging and delivery at Wienerberger factory.
  • Raw materials

Raw materials

Although our primary raw materials (clay, sand, water) are geologically abundant, Wienerberger recognises this will not always be the case and seeks to ‘do more with less’ through a number of resource efficiency initiatives

Zero clay waste in production

Our factories pursue zero clay waste in production by returning off-cuts from the shaping process and imperfect unfired products to the clay stockpile. This clay is then reused in future production runs. Where fired ceramic products are deemed not to have met our high quality standards, these can be crushed and recycled either in the manufacturing process, or sold on as aggregate.

Recycled content

Wienerberger’s inclusion of materials from alternative, recycled, and secondary sources (MARSS) reduces the consumption of virgin clay resources and, by utilising by-products from other industries, Wienerberger diverts material from landfill. The percentage of MARSS used varies by factory and by product, so please request current MARSS percentage content when ordering.

Clay pit at quarry.

Dematerialisation

Wienerberger has embraced the challenge to ‘do more with less’ by investing in R&D to make our products strong, light and efficient. This has led to the release of new brick products, as well as the innovative Thin Leading Edge (TLE) concrete roof tile and the 20/20 New Generation clay plain tile. 

Dematerialisation in Sustainability.
  • Energy and carbon dioxide emissions

Energy and carbon dioxide emissions

Wienerberger’s Sustainability Roadmap 2020 defines challenging targets to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions

Energy is an essential ingredient for Wienerberger’s manufacturing process: we require temperatures in excess of 1000°C to transform clay into a strong and durable ceramic construction product. We also need energy to prepare, shape and pack our products.

The CO2 emissions generated from energy consumption in the brick and roof tile manufacturing process can be divided into two categories: direct emissions from combustion (the burning of gas and oils) and indirect emissions related to electricity generation. However, a third source of carbon dioxide emissions exists, called process emissions, which are released from clay during firing.

Kiln use for Sustainability.

Climate change is a real and significant challenge to which Wienerberger responds in several ways: 

  • Committing to reduce our CO2 emissions by 20% of 2013 levels by 2020.
  • Manufacturing durable construction products that require low maintenance over their long lifespan.
  • Procuring renewable electricity for use in all our factories and offices.
  • Utilising an ISO 50001 certified Energy Management System (EMS) for effective energy management.
  • Recovering waste heat in the manufacturing process to reduce gas consumption.
  • Championing energy-efficient building design concepts such as the e4 house.
  • Producing resilient building materials that continue to perform despite a changing climate.

 

e4 house built in Hestia multi, porotherm 100 and new rivius antique slate
  • Transport and packaging

Transport and packaging

Our sustainability strategy extends beyond the factory gate

Packaging

The majority of Wienerberger bricks and pavers are stacked in a pattern that allows transportation by forklifts without use of a pallet. Wooden pallets are generally only used for transporting special shaped bricks and roof tiles, after which the pallets can be returned to our concrete roof tile sites for recycling. Wienerberger uses recyclable plastic shrink wrap hood and strapping that provide the necessary protection for transportation whilst using the minimum quantity of packaging.

An image of a forklift transporting packaged Terca bricks.

Transport

With our national spread of factory sites and strategically placed distribution hubs, transport distances to construction sites can be kept to a minimum. Wienerberger’s contracted road hauliers have an ISO 14001 certified Environmental Management System and use trucks fitted with technology to minimise noise and reduce emissions to Euro 6 standard. To minimise the environmental impact of transporting our products a full load delivery price incentive is used. If this is not possible, we aim to group orders to achieve a full load delivery. When importing products from Europe we charter vessels that carry around 850,000 bricks per load, attaining lower emissions per mile than the equivalent road transport.

Wienerberger lorry in yard transporting bricks.
  • Water

Water

Water is an essential ingredient for manufacturing bricks, clay roof tiles and pavers, so it’s vital that we use water responsibly

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Our factories are able to reduce their total water consumption by directly reusing water for washing product moulds or by recycling water for use in other applications such as HGV wheel washing.

Recycle pump.

Innovation in production

We have partnered with water experts from both consultancies and universities to identify opportunities to save water and reduce our water footprint. This has led to a better understanding of water quality thresholds which in turn has enabled us to replace mains water (drinking quality) with water from non-mains sources such as rainwater harvesting and our onsite lagoons. These innovations increase our resilience to water supply shortages.

Innovation in production for Sustainability.
  • Waste

Waste

We recognise that the best way to manage waste is not to create it in the first place. There is a strong emphasis on product quality management at Wienerberger as ‘getting it right first time’ conserves energy, water and raw materials as well as preventing waste

Product design

By designing for durability and material efficiency at the outset, Wienerberger avoids creating waste at our factories. It also ensures that products arrive with our customers in good condition and that they perform well in situ.

Production waste product design for better quality products in the built environment.

Recycling fired product

If a fired product does not meet our strict quality tests, it will be separated and recycled. Common recycling routes include crushing for aggregate or recycling back into our manufacturing process.

Photography of recycling bricks

Waste management on-site

Nearly all the waste resulting from the manufacture of clay construction products is non-hazardous. Very small quantities of hazardous waste are sent to specialist contractors with some, such as oily rags and electronics, being recycled for further use. For non-hazardous materials, Wienerberger achieves high recycling rates. Where possible we return used materials and equipment to our suppliers for direct reuse or recycling.

Production Waste Management onsite at a Wienerberger factory in the UK.
  • Biodiversity

Biodiversity

Wienerberger promotes biodiversity at our sites and in the wider community

Our operations of quarrying and manufacturing have created a variety of habitats which, when combined with the land that we own and manage, provides for a biodiverse landscape. Even industrial buildings and active quarries are home to wildlife such as nesting birds, insects and wildflowers. 

Biodiversity in and around our factories

Many Wienerberger sites have areas listed as nationally important Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or local designations for ecological or geological significance. These sites are managed to maintain and promote biodiversity in conjunction with Natural England and relevant local authorities. Our management techniques include hedgerow planting, coppicing on rotation and mowing to maintain wildflowers and herbs which in turn support a variety of insects and small mammals. 

Biodiversity in Wienerberger's Sustainability Roadmap 2020.

Beyond the factory gate

In addition to sponsoring local Wildlife Trusts in the areas we operate, Wienerberger has partnered with the ecological consultancy EcoSurv to produce a bespoke range of bird and bat boxes which can be discretely built-in to housing developments and extensions, a subtle way of promoting biodiversity within the urban and suburban landscape.

Eco Habitat Bat and Bird Boxes