An Extra Life for Brick

One of our oldest building materials could avoid GAME OVER if we just give it an extra life.

brick, recycled materials, walls


Brian Michener


Marguerite Anglin


Anna Ishii, Brittany Cole

With an extensive history and qualities that provide ease of construction, brick has been a primary building material for nearly 10,000 years. Some of the earliest brick structures ever built still stand today as exemplars of brick's strength and longevity. But in "brick cities" like Chicago, St. Louis, DC, and Philadelphia, as 19th and 20th century buildings become outdated on the interior, they are often torn down entirely and thrown away. And more often than not, the buildings that replace them are clad in new brick!

But if the old brick is still good, why throw it away?! Unfortunately, the perception of used (or re-claimed) bricks is that they are high-priced, expensive to clean and difficult to use. But many brick suppliers now offer pre-cleaned, local, reclaimed bricks—stacked on standard pallets—for the same if not lower cost than that of newly manufactured bricks. Reclaimed bricks require no new excavation, no chemicals to produce and no special construction methods to install.

Saving bricks from disposal is becoming a more popular practice with deconstruction crews as the demand for environmentally responsible building materials increases by designers, builders and consumers. Beyond the obvious environmental benefits of reusing old brick, reclaimed bricks offer unmatched authenticity and character that new brick simply cannot reproduce.