The devil is in the brickwork detail

What are the modern techniques that enable housebuilders and developers to produce details in masonry facades that take buildings to new levels in terms of design and aesthetics? Scott Denham from IG Masonry Support investigates

Deep reveals, soffits, flying beams and arches transform a building into a thing of beauty. Traditional facades that have withstood the test of time are much-applauded feature details, but are increasingly being ignored in favour of building cheaper and more quickly. This results in buildings that are bland in appearance.

Brick has been around for centuries and has been the go-to material for use in the construction of many homes across Europe. Its consistent shape, compressive strength and ability to absorb water – not to mention its ability to hit the mark on aesthetic – has made brick a solid choice when it comes to the creation and refurbishment of buildings.

While trends towards other materials come and go, housebuilders’ love affair with brick continues. Over the past decade however, and in line with the advent of modern methods of construction, brick has been competing with other solutions. Brick was the popular material in the UK and Ireland, but the likes of the modern cladding system have become quick and cost-effective ways to create bright and modern looking buildings. However, it comes at a cost and this is partly due to the long-term aesthetics, as modern cladding systems can look tired and dated over time. There can be no denying however that many brick facades look as impressive today as they did when they were created decades ago.

Currently, brick is experiencing something of a resurgence and with this has come a wave of housebuilders returning to brick and the many qualities it has to offer. Architecturally, the intricate detailing that brickwork enables is like no other. Brick detail in the form of arches, brick soffits, deep reveals and flying beams, continually make for stunning exteriors, enabling housebuilders to create truly unique facades.

Quality is achieved
As a result of brick’s popularity and design potential, there has been a need for a solution that enables intricate brickwork patterning to be achieved in many iterations. And what is this solution? Prefabrication.

Prefabricated brick solutions can help the industry in a host of ways including the skills shortage. There is a huge skills shortage in the brickwork sector, with the average age of a bricklayer being 59 years old. To overcome this issue, prefabricated solutions have been tipped as a potential answer, as they negate the need for a high number of skilled craftspeople onsite.

Prefabricated solutions reduce the need for skilled labour onsite as systems are cut and bonded in controlled manufacturing facilities. Not only does this ensure quality and consistency of product, it eliminates the need for lengthy assembly onsite.

As prefabricated systems are made in a manufacturing environment, these conditions offer more control than traditional trades onsite. This level of quality control means products can be easily verified and made in a standardised way. This translates into better performance guarantees for specifiers – and a higher performing system that functions well for years to come.

The same finish every time
Moreover, the uniformity that is essential to brickwork designs can run the risk of being compromised if offsite solutions are not employed. With modular construction, replication simply isn’t an issue. Taking the construction of complex brick features offsite into factory-controlled conditions, drives the level of quality and consistency that is needed to achieve excellence and reduces the need for skilled craftspeople onsite, who are a growing rarity in the current house building climate.

Brick’s popularity will certainly flourish in the coming years considering there are systems which now make it far easier to create sophisticated brick patterns. These systems provide all the traditional aesthetic benefits in a modern solution, offering limitless creative potential for housebuilders. With this union, brick will certainly be a building material that is here to stay.

Scott Denham is sales director at IG Masonry Support