One of the beauties of using reclaimed bricks is that it helps preserve English heritage as new building work can remain in character with its environment. However, this raises the broader question of sustainability - where building work is not only in keeping with its environment, but seeks to limit its environmental impact.

Clearly - questions of haulage aside - the process of recycling bricks incurs a smaller carbon footprint than using new bricks with their associated production and firing processes.

The Building Research Establishment's "Green Guide to Specification" has suggested that a greater capacity exists for recycling bricks.

Sustainability and environmental issues

Approximately 50% of global resources are consumed by the construction industry, therefore it is important that a sustainable approach is employed in the selection of materials. Sustainability means adapting the way we meet our objectives to minimise the impacts of construction, providing for people of today and not endangering the generations of tomorrow. Buildings are the greatest producers of environmentally harmful gases such as CO2 and this 'eco-footprint' is ever increasing. Sourcing re-claimed bricks achieves a balance between the benefits of using renewable resources and the associated cost leading to achievement long-term profit from short-term outlay. Sustainable materials are those that are durable and efficient and minimise environmental impact whilst maximising recycling. With 60% of global resources being consumed by construction commitment to use of sustainable materials is vital in helping to avert the negative effects of global warming.

Life Cycle Assessment measures the ecological costs of products such as bricks in terms of energy consumed and waste produced, The total energy used during a materials life is referred to as its 'embodied energy' 
(See diagram below):

Manufactured Bricks

Reclaimed Bricks

Energy is saved in processing and manufacturing when re-claimed bricks are used.

Sourcing brick requirements from removes the energy consumption involved in extraction and production and also in transportation as bricks are sourced locally within the North West of the UK as opposed to being manufactured and delivered from abroad promoting a sustainable approach to energy consumption. Such recycling also reduces requirement to transport and dispose of waste.

Government/Official Bodies Input

The Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) have reported that a shocking 17.5 % of the total waste produced in the U.K derives from the construction industry with 13 million tonnes of construction materials delivered to sites being wasted each year which is clearly not sustainable. Reuse of materials reduces such waste production.

Evidence suggests that a third of the housing stock required by 2050 still needs to be built in order to meet demand. As climate change is now scientific fact homes need to be constructed in a manner that produces low carbon emissions with the Government proposing a reduction figure of 60% in comparison to the 1992 level recorded.

The construction industry will in the future come under the scrutiny of government and environmental groups as well as society affecting each construction stage including design, assembly and disposal affecting self-builders, small building firms and larger companies.

Voluntary and mandatory guidelines in terms of the environment are being developed at local and national levels and are becoming increasingly applicable to the building industry.

The Energy Efficiency Office has listed brick making as one of the high energy consuming industries.

Embodied Energy and Carbon in Bricks

Product (1 metric Ton)    Embodied Energy (MJ)    Embodied Carbon (kg CO2)
Engineering Bricks    8,200    850
General Bricks    3,000    200
(Source: Materials for Sustainable sites 2009)(6)

Reclaimed bricks input into sustainability

‘Use of salvaged bricks can reduce resource use, energy consumption and pollution to manufacture new bricks and they can offer historic aesthetic qualities to a site structure’ (Materials for Sustainable Sites 2009).

Reclaimed bricks are listening to the concerns of the impact of buildings on the environment and helping to implement solutions.

We have acknowledged the fact that it is better to source bricks locally than to have to transport materials over long distances and the attraction of materials that reflect local heritage. We recognise the need to consider the ecological cost of materials as well as the economical.

It is a fundamental ecological principle to use recycled resources and re-claimed bricks acknowledges the sustainable source of demolition sites and that construction supplies are not infinite therefore, construction staff at all levels have a professional responsibility to re-use to avoid depletion.

Using reclaimed materials is a simple and innovative option and utilising the massive resource of materials coming out of demolition sites results in the creation of a 'high performance building', superior to one designed by standard methods.


The Code for Sustainable Homes

A new national standard developed by the Government, The Building Research Establishment (BRE) and The Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) in order to give a single guide for the development of sustainable homes. Compliance is currently voluntary with the Government considering making it a mandatory requirement in the future.

High Performance Buildings

‘Buildings whose energy, economic and environmental performance is substantially higher than one designed by standard practice’ (Green Building Materials Guide 2006).

Life Cycle Assessment

A methodology for ‘investigating the impact of a product at every stage of its life at each stage looking at the material, energy consumed and the pollution and waste produced’ (Green Building Materials Guide 2006).

Global Warming

‘Occurs when energy from the earth is reradiated as heat and is absorbed and trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which reduces heat loss resulting in warmer earth temperatures’. (Materials for Sustainable Sites 2009).

Embodied Energy

Total energy consumed in a products lifetime.


1.    (2006) Code for Sustainable Homes. London: Communities and Local Government.

2.    CIOB. Sustainability and Construction.

3.    (2007) Code for Sustainable Homes technical guide. London: Communities and Local Government.

4.    A.Fox, R.Murrell. (1989) Green design-A Guide to the Environmental Impact of Building Materials. London: Longman.

5.    R, Spiegel, D, Meadows. (2006) Green Building Materials-A Guide to Product Selection and Specification 2nd Ed. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons Ltd.

6.    Calkins, M. (2009) Materials for Sustainable Sites. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons Ltd.

7.    N, Lazarus. (2005) Potential for reducing the environmental Impact of Construction Materials.