Photography of ripening clay on the clay mound

What are the benefits of building with clay?

  • Clay - Building a better quality of life

Clay – building a better quality of life

Fired clay is a versatile and robust building material that has a timeless appeal. Clay building products can be used across the whole envelope in the form of bricks, blocks, façade systems, roof tiles and pavers.

As one of the oldest and most popular building materials available, clay bricks and roof tiles are deeply rooted in European history and form some of our most iconic buildings. The trans-generational lifecycle of clay-built structures means that they have become part of our cultural heritage and architectural identity. Today’s products are manufactured much more efficiently than in the past, which results in higher quality and lower environmental impact. However, Wienerberger retains traditional shaping methods for Keymer hand-made roof tiles, to meet the demands of restoration projects and to achieve a heritage look.

Here is a closer look at the benefits that clay building products offer to the construction industry and building occupants:

  • Versatility

Versatility

Clay building products can be used for almost any new build construction or renovation project and can reflect all architectural styles, from traditional and historic to innovative and avant-garde. Architects love to experiment with clay building products as their compact size and the variety of colours and shapes available provide infinite design options when creating contemporary structures.

Housebuilders have confidence in the performance and aesthetic qualities that clay building products deliver for single housing units or multi-storey structures. 

  • Durability

Durability

Thanks to the durability of clay as a building material, structures built using clay products are an investment for generations to come, with a service life exceeding 100 years. A great testament to the longevity of clay products is the amount of old buildings around us that are still standing.

Bricks, blocks, roof tiles and pavers made from clay are dimensionally stable, meaning that structural defects during construction are unlikely when the products are installed correctly. Once constructed, a brick wall is incredibly robust: it should not deform, shrink when drying, swell when wet, or crack when under prolonged stress.

Owing to the mechanical strength and stability of clay building products, brick buildings not only withstand wind, wet weather, hail, frost, storms and snow; they are also designed to cope with extreme conditions such as avalanches, fire, landslides, flooding and earthquakes. 

 

  • Thermal performance

Thermal performance

Clay building materials have a high thermal mass, providing a comfortable indoor climate in all seasons. On hot summer days, clay block walls absorb and store heat, which will be released when the outside temperature decreases in the evening. This enables buildings to avoid overheating during summer and reduces the need for air conditioning. During cold winter days, clay block walls will retain warmth inside a building, even if the heating is interrupted.

The ability of clay building materials to buffer changes in exterior temperature makes them ideal for use on energy-efficient house concepts such as Passivhaus. 

  • Economic

Economic

A building structure made of clay blocks can be constructed quickly, saving both time and money during construction. Once in-use, maintenance costs are low due to clay products’ resistance to extreme weather conditions, pests, vegetation growth, and chemical pollution. The exceptional durability means that clay-built assets typically achieve high resale values.

  • Healthy living environments

Healthy living environments

As clay building products do not usually require chemical treatment to ensure durability or fire-resistance, they do not emit volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde or allergens to air during their in-use phase.

Clay building materials can also act as a buffer for indoor air humidity, due to it clay’s porous surface. This reduces the requirement for a mechanical ventilation system to regulate humidity, in turn reducing the risk of mould. 

  • Environmental responsibility

Environmental responsibility

It is essential to consider the full lifecycle impact of materials when making purchasing decisions. When the cumulative lifecycle impacts of clay building products (raw material sourcing, manufacturing, in-use maintenance and end-of-life phases) are considered over the products’ +100-year lifespan, the carbon dioxide emissions from clay building products are relatively low. If a building is designed for multiple uses over a long lifespan and constructed with a durable structure and envelope (such as clay products), this will reduce the whole-life carbon impact of the building.

Wienerberger continuously seeks new ways to improve people’s quality of life by providing functional building products with minimal environmental impact.

  • Conclusion

Conclusion

In summary, clay is a building material with history and future in the construction industry. Tried and tested construction methods using clay materials continue to produce safe, stable and sustainable buildings which cater to the demands of modern living. The properties of clay as a natural raw material make it ideal for creating durable, high performance building products.

Although current products on the market are more than suitable for their purpose, Wienerberger takes an innovative approach and is always looking at new ways in which clay building products can be adapted to improve how homes and other structures are built every day.  

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