Brick and Structural Clay

SPECIAL SECTION/BRICK & CLAY RECORD: Lean and Green

August 1, 2009
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A new brick design and environmental awards showcase Acme Brick's commitment to sustainable manufacturing.

Acme's Wetlands project is located at the company's plant in Perla, Ark.


Acme Brick Co.’s engineers have developed a new brick design that increases the area of a brick’s core holes from 25 to 33% of the brick’s total volume. It is expected that this new “lean” version of both the company’s King Size and modular brick will generate savings of about 11% in the energy used to fire the brick. Additional savings will be generated in transportation costs, because the new brick weigh approximately 3.15 lbs. vs. 3.5 lbs for a conventional King Size brick.

From left: Jason Pence, environmental manager, and Rick Hice, regional engineer, receive the Brick Industry Association’s Environmental Stewardship Award from Ed Watson, senior vice president of Production for Acme Brick.

Brick Benefits

Brick is a natural resource that is in no danger of being depleted and offers no disposal problems in an era chronically short of landfills. Even at the end of its 100+ year lifecycle, brick is normally reused in a new structure. The importance of brick’s long lifecycle is revealed when one considers that commercial, institutional, and residential buildings and their operations account for 136 million tons of construction/demolition waste and 40% (or 3 billion tons annually) of global raw material use.

Brick is an environmentally safe product that is 99% pure clay and is produced by burning clean, natural gas. It produces no gases or toxins like those created in abundance by the many types of foam insulation, including those found in artificial stucco. In addition, brick is second only to wood in having the lowest embodied energy at 2560 kilowatt-hours/ton of material, compared to glass at 8960, steel at 15,360 and aluminum at 80,640.

Energy-efficient brick creates structures that provide excellent thermal insulation and a healthy indoor climate. Since it resists water vapor diffusion, brick also acts to automatically balance moisture within a structure.

Because it does not rust, dent, bend or peel like other siding materials, brick requires minimum or no maintenance throughout its long lifecycle. All other sidings use natural resources and generate considerable pollution during their manufacturing, harvesting or application processes. In addition, wood structures must be painted repeatedly throughout their lifecycles.

The new “lean” version of both King Size and modular brick will generate savings of about 11% in the energy used to fire the brick.

Environmental Excellence

Acme Brick was recently honored with a third consecutive Environmental Stewardship Award from the Brick Industry Association (BIA). This year, Acme won for its Constructed Wetlands program, which was developed to treat storm water that accumulates in clay mining areas.

By design, the system does not require any chemicals to treat the acidic runoff water. In addition, no electrical or generator-powered equipment is required to operate the system; therefore, no emissions from electrical utilities or power generators are created.

Water treatment is achieved through the use of specialized aquatic plants that neutralize the acidic runoff water. In addition to achieving the primary water treatment goal, the wetlands project has provided a welcome refuge for many forms of animal life.

According to Richard Jennison, the BIA’s president and CEO, “Our companies are demonstrating that, just like all-natural brick itself, they’re operating in a sustainable manner: safeguarding the health and well-being of our environment, their employees and society at large.”

The Extra Mile

In Acme Brick’s case, even the mining of clay reserves produces an important ecological benefit. When the clay reserves of a mining pit are depleted, Acme converts the pit into a small (typically about 5 acres), deep lake. The lake is then stocked with fish for recreational use by employees.

Many products are now making claims to be environmentally sound for use in construction. However, with all of these products, some environmental concessions must be made. Brick is the only major building material that achieves this high level of “green” building, and Acme’s new “lean” brick is another step forward in environmental stewardship.

For more information, contact Acme Brick Co. at P.O. Box 425, Fort Worth, TX 76101; (817) 792-1234; or visit the company’s website at www.brick.com.

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