SMART| focus

Hidden Things

Elizabeth Young

 As this issue of SMART|dynamics of masonry came together, I was struck by the importance of hidden things – the non-aesthetic details that often don’t get much space in text and aren’t easily seen in pictures. Building occupants may not realize what those hidden things are that make their buildings so special. Designers know they matter.

Maybe it’s the insulation or thermal mass of the masonry wall system that makes the building so comfortable. Single wythe masonry wall systems continue to evolve in order to remain a competitive option. This issue includes an article on product and system evolution in light of increasing energy performance requirements and features a forensic hospital in the Arizona desert where single wythe provides the right mix of durability, cost-effectiveness and calming aesthetic. Martha VanGeem, PE, shares research comparing the CMU wall system and wood and the role of thermal mass across climate zones. Results, of course, show the effectiveness of CMU’s thermal mass with insulation to be up to 35% greater.

Maybe it’s the sound isolation that occupants don’t notice until they’re in a building without it and can hear doors close in the unit adjacent. Low income multi-family housing project, The Hegeman, respects its occupants by giving them the privacy that CMU walls and hollow core precast plank flooring cost effectively provide. Likewise the multi-use Jersey City police station. At this station, the community achieves a beautiful, durable, blast-resistant building through the use of masonry and a sense of openness and transparency using glass block.

Maybe it is the aesthetic. Exquisite, timeless design with masterful restoration. Subtle continuity of coursing with openings designed to fit at modular intervals, eliminating the need for unnecessary unit field cuts, easily and efficiently accomplished with BIM modeling. Or is it the ability to play with light and shadow by protruding a brick unit here and recessing another one there as designers did at both the police station and a North Carolina shopping center after it was switched from tilt-up panels to full bed masonry? Attractive and on budget.

I haven’t even mentioned masonry’s non-combustibility. Or its role in fire compart-mentation. Or its resilience. Everyone notices these, though, after a disaster. Greensburg KS gathered brick of its destroyed community after a 2007 tornado and and used it to clad its new City Hall, bringing life back after so much was taken away.

Look for the hidden things as you peruse this issue. Even when we intend to focus on energy and social responsibility, masonry can’t help but offer so much more! Myriad added value.

Warm Regards,

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