Ceramic Industry Blog

Brick Under Fire?

January 28, 2010
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As if the housing collapse, lending crisis and general worldwide financial malaise weren’t enough challenges for the brick industry, two news items recently came across my desk that gave me pause: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) looks to be ready to revisit its regulation of the industry, and a fly ash brick plant recently opened in Wisconsin.

Now, this certainly isn’t the first time the EPA has had brick manufacturers in its sights. I’m sure we all remember the EPA’s decision in 2004 to reopen the maximum achievable control technology (MACT) rule, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals 2007 ruling that rescinded those standards. Interestingly, the EPA is now asking industry representatives to participate in a Small Business Review Panel, which will apparently have a chance to comment on the 2010 proposed rule. Will input from the brick/structural clay industry really affect the EPA’s new regulations? Time will tell, though I must admit to a fair amount of skepticism.

Brick has long been the siding option of choice for homeowners. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted on behalf of Boral Bricks, nearly two-thirds of homeowners with a preference would choose brick. With society’s increasing focus on green/sustainable options for every product under the sun, though, it’s a sure bet that fly ash brick are going to garner some interest. Fly ash brick are produced from waste material and, according to the company that opened the Wisconsin plant, they reduce energy requirements and CO2 production by 85% when compared to traditional clay brick.

The good news is that the Brick Industry Association (BIA), which has long touted brick as a sustainable green building material, has co-developed a new program to help manufacturers certify their environmental claims (additional details will be available in the February 2010 Brick & Clay Record). Still, 85% is a big number, and the fly ash brick manufacturer intends to open at least five more plants in the coming years.

It almost seems as though the brick industry is facing a war on two fronts. What actions are manufacturers taking now, and what can the industry do in the future, to address these issues? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below, or feel free to contact me directly at suttons@bnpmedia.com or (330) 336-4098.


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