Reinventing the Brick: Rethinking Traditional Materials

December 21, 2016 | ProgressTH

ArchDaily recently shared research being done by architectural studio Sumart Diseño y Arquitectura SAS in Columbia. It involves redesigning traditional bricks to help reduce heat transfer to building interiors, as well as reduce noise pollution.

The key to achieving this is the bricks' internal structure and their exterior angles. The interior of the bricks, instead of being solid, have a network of channels running through them, allowing heat to dissipate before moving all the way through the brick. The angles of the bricks on the exterior facade also serve as an irregular surface the sun is unable to heat evenly at any given time of the day.

ArchDaily provides a list of objectives the project seeks to achieve:
  • Reduce thermal discomfort in order to minimize the use of climate control devices. 
  • Address the lack of new sustainable energy solutions in construction that are available to everyone.
  • Decrease the amount of installation materials, finishes and construction time.
  • Promote the clay industry through design, taking advantage of manpower, adjacent primary materials and traditional industrial systems.
Because of the irregular surface of the exterior, sound waves are also supposedly dissipated more efficiently, helping to reduce noise pollution that would otherwise be transferred to a building's interior through traditional brick walls.

The project provides an example of how changes in manufacturing technology and innovations in design can help reinvigorate readily available building materials like clay bricks.

Rethinking Other Traditional Materials 

Could this project help inspire innovations among other traditional building materials?

Considering how experimenting with 3D printing in building construction is expanding, creating irregular surfaces and internal structures for walls could become easier than ever. Just like 3D printing allows shapes and processes previously impossible with traditional manufacturing processes for plastic and even metal, 3D printing could allow similar leaps to be made with concrete and other construction materials.

Imagine a concrete wall 3D printed with a similar internal structure to dissipate heat and an external structure to better reflect solar radiation and sound. For similar or even less cost, leaps could be made in the quality and capabilities of newly constructed buildings, even without employing cutting-edge materials.

As new manufacturing processes become increasingly available to both businesses and individuals, we will need to rethink how we make things.

To do this, we need to go back to "first principles," and consider what would be an ideal solution for any given challenge with technology on hand, rather than merely attempting to take the next iterative step from previous design approaches. In other words, we must begin with a clean slate, and think about what can be done with these materials and new manufacturing processes today, unhindered by what we've been doing with them for generations.

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