Durability, Superior Longevity, and Life Cycle Assessment
Brick’s renowned strength, long life, and low maintenance requirements are some of the reasons why the International Building Code allows brick to be reused as a building material. In fact, these qualities are at the crux of any comprehensive and true sustainable and green building design strategy.
According to the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), brick masonry has a 100-year life. This longevity is also supported by a Life Cycle Assessment conducted via the Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) software. However, there are numerous instances where brick structures have surpassed this benchmark as evidenced by the large number of historic monumental buildings constructed of brick. Finally, with very little need for maintenance, the ongoing costs of upkeep and repair are significantly reduced over brick’s lifetime compared to other materials.
According to life cycle assessments conducted by the ATHENA Institute and BEES, few materials can match brick’s service life. Depending on the rating system used, vinyl siding is typically rated between 25-50 years. Fiber cement is not listed or rated in BEES. However, one fiber cement company conducted their own in-house LCA and self reports their product as having a 50 year life span. But remember, this is 50 years in which the product must be painted every 5-7 years, contributing to ongoing costs and to potential emissions of volatile organic compounds. Some ratings systems give stucco a 50-year life span, but to receive this rating, it must be well maintained—including regular joint maintenance and painting. Similar to fiber cement, manufactured stone is not listed or rated by BEES. It is likely too new as a building material to rate long term.