Generally made from kiln-fired clay, it is estimated that bricks have been used since 7000 BC, as examples were discovered in the ancient city of Jericho. Since then, bricks have been omnipresent in the history of architecture, combining constructive ease, aesthetics and comfort. Nowadays, with the growing concerns around the environment and the larger impact of materials used and decisions taken on a project, there are ways to modernize an ancient material such as brick through a few updates to its manufacturing process, making it even more eco-conscious. Brick can already be considered a sustainable material because of its durability and recyclability, but there are ways to further improve it. The new project for the headquarters of the food manufacturer Danish Crown, under construction and developed by CEBRA office, is a good example of how to apply this product in a more sustainable way.
Listing the benefits of bricks is not difficult. It is a robust, solid and stable material. After the end of their useful life, the parts can easily be reused or recycled, as long as they are carefully disassembled. With good thermal inertia, brick walls absorb excess heat and avoid large temperature differences, and do not emit unwanted odors or substances. In addition, its aesthetic is extremely pleasant, with shade variations and a cozy texture, being a material that “ages” well, but that can be easily renewed.
In the project developed by the Danish office CEBRA, brick is the undisputed protagonist. The building will be the headquarters of the Danish Crown company and one of the first buildings in the country to obtain DGNB heart certification, which states that the building must be healthy and comfortable for employees, with a special focus on air quality, thermal comfort, acoustics and architectural quality. Brick is an especially good solution for these types of requirements. In this project, 350,000 bricks were used. Choosing Randers Tegl’s GREENER bricks over conventional bricks ensured a reduction of more than 66 tonnes of C02.
The headquarters of a global leader in sustainable meat production requires special considerations; architectural as well as sustainability-wise. The project has set out to create an environment that spans the company’s 130-year history and their objective of delivering climate neutral meat production by 2050.
According to the architects responsible for the project: “Our design uses the typical Danish farm building with its solid brickwork, hipped roof, and high ridge to create an identifiable signature for the headquarters. Three-wing buildings are pushed together on one side to frame the main entrance and fan out to the north towards an open landscape. The wings are offset to one another so that they gather around a central inner hub, like a farm’s courtyard or a community green in nucleated villages.”
The bricks, with their characteristic hue, are the protagonists in the space, used in all the façades of the volumes, which means that they also envelop the central patio, an area of great importance for interaction between people. The bricks were manufactured by Randers Tegl, a Danish company that has been striving to reduce the energy and carbon footprint in production of bricks and tiles. An element that greatly impacts the environmental footprint is the energy used for burning, which traditionally comes from fossil fuels. The products in its GREENER range are produced exclusively with electricity from wind and biogas. This has the advantage that, unlike fossil fuels, it is sustainable, since the CO2 emitted by burning biogas is matched by the amount of carbon dioxide that plants absorb from the atmosphere as they grow. Thus, each brick's environmental impact is reduced by 50%.
The GREENER bricks cost about 10% more than ordinary bricks. But since the facade of a building is only part of the overall budget, it is a small cost to opt for a green upgrade that has great – and documented – effect on the environmental footprint, that is very likely to affect environmental certifications of the project.