Masonry, in general, remains a popular building material in the commercial built environment. It is very competitive with other siding options and is considered a very sustainable building solution. In addition, energy code regulators voted to keep exceptions for single wythe CMU masonry in place, allowing for the construction of block buildings without the need for highly insulated walls. Brick veneer continues to be the most popular curtain wall system. It has a built in cavity where insulation can be inserted to meet new energy requirements and also acts as a natural rain screen to funnel trapped water to the weep system. Code provisions, however, limit the height of masonry veneer without appropriate support, and certain energy code amendments (City of Seattle) force the designers to calculate the thermal loss due to penetrations from wall ties and supporting angle irons. In most cases, additional insulation is required to offset the thermal loss. And masonry is heavy. For masonry to exceed the height limitation provided in the code, it must be supported by the building structure. This can be a problem if the structure is not designed to carry the load of the masonry veneer.
Over the last decade or so we have seen a trend toward lighter weight construction featuring continuous exterior insulation and light-weight panel systems with built in rain screens. These buildings are gaining popularity because they work nicely for infill sites, where the bearing capacity of soils are poor, where developers want to take advantage of every square inch of rental space, and are typically less expensive because the structure is made of lighter weight steel or concrete. The panel systems are lightweight, usually finished with a metal skin, or lightweight stone, terracotta, tile, and even Hardi-board. They boast drainage cavities and come fully engineered for energy, structural capacity, and water drainage systems.
Because of the weight, traditional masonry has not been a viable solution to compete for a share of the business on these types of buildings. When Mutual developed Slimbrick, the door opened and today we can discuss masonry options with architects who are designing these light-weight structures. A Slimbrick system properly detailed can meet all of the requirements of these other systems and many times at a lower price point. With our dedicated team of architectural sales reps we are already leveraging the benefits of a brick solution for these types of structures. Sales to date indicate demand is growing and with continued effort we see a bright future for Slimbrick and sales of masonry in the commercial construction market.