What's Wrong With This Picture? It's Called "Sustainable" and "Holistic Green Building."

Georgian Revival HouseBrick Industry Association/Promo image

Brick lasts a very long time, needs very little maintenance, and has good thermal mass. It is widely touted as a green building material, and rightly so. But then the brick Industry goes and spoils it all with their Annual Brick Awards, and this ridiculous press release where they show four monster houses, way beyond McMansions, all houses for the .001%, all under the headline:

Architects Use Genuine Clay Brick for Sustainable Home Building

Holistic Green Building include Exteriors, Interiors, Landscaping

According to the description for this one,

This Georgian revival house was designed for a retired couple who wanted a classic architectural design, an efficient plan with one floor living, and low maintenance construction....The plan has a large first floor which contains all the essential living spaces coupled with a much smaller finished second floor and basement level spaces.

That sounds so sustainable! Yet the press release says:

Architects around the country are incorporating genuine clay brick throughout the house for sustainable design that also helps save on energy costs. In addition to helping meet the highest green building criteria, brick exteriors boost sustainability and performance over their main competitors. Free of volatile organic compounds and often incorporating recycled content, locally sourced brick reduces the use of fossil fuels.

In this house in Winnetka, Ill., they write:

The homeowners wanted a "healthy-green" home. We incorporated products and procedures that would ensure an environmentally friendly home. We followed the guidelines of the Chicago Green Homes checklist, in addition to providing construction guidelines for non-toxic practices. We used all-natural cleaners, formaldehyde-free wood, recycled fiber interior insulation, zero-VOC interior paint, high efficiency mechanicals and energy-star appliances. Amongst a list of restrictions, gasoline-generated machines (after the foundation was completed) and smoking were prohibited on-site.

At least they are honest and use the phrase "healthy green". But for the brick industry to call this "Sustainable Home Building" devalues the term beyond recognition.

To be fair, I must note that when you get beyond the press release and look at all the winners, there are a few that deserve to use the word sustainable. Mill District City Apartments in Minneapolis tout access to transit, a brownfield site, midrise wood construction, efficient windows and storm water collection. They point out a real benefit to brick:

Using materials or prefinished assemblies that do not require chemical finishing products to be applied on-site, such as paints and stains, REDUCE a building’s ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT over both the short and long term by effectively making them maintenance-free.

But on the whole, they are not doing anyone a favor by calling monster homes green and sustainable. It's just not credible.

What's Wrong With This Picture? It's Called "Sustainable" and "Holistic Green Building."
The brick industry better get their stories straight and think before they hit send.

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