A brick is a type of construction material used to build walls, pavements and other elements in masonry construction. Properly, the term brick denotes a unit primarily composed of clay, but is now also used informally to denote units made of other materials or other chemically cured construction blocks. Bricks can be joined using mortar, adhesives or by interlocking. Bricks are usually produced at brickworks in numerous classes, types, materials, and sizes which vary with region, and are produced in bulk quantities.
Block is a similar term referring to a rectangular building unit composed of clay or concrete, but is usually larger than a brick. Lightweight bricks (also called lightweight blocks) are made from expanded clay aggregate.
Fired bricks are one of the longest-lasting and strongest building materials, sometimes referred to as artificial stone, and have been used since circa 4000 BC. Air-dried bricks, also known as mud-bricks, have a history older than fired bricks, and have an additional ingredient of a mechanical binder such as straw.
Bricks are laid in courses and numerous patterns known as bonds, collectively known as brickwork, and may be laid in various kinds of mortar to hold the bricks together to make a durable structure.
The earliest bricks were dried mud-bricks, meaning that they were formed from clay-bearing earth or mud and dried (usually in the sun) until they were strong enough for use. The oldest discovered bricks, originally made from shaped mud and dating before 7500 BC, were found at Tell Aswad, in the upper Tigris region and in southeast Anatolia close to Diyarbakir.
Between 5000 and 4500 BC, Mesopotamia had discovered fired brick. The standard brick sizes in Mesopotamia followed a general rule: the width of the dried or burned brick would be twice its thickness, and its length would be double its width.
The South Asian inhabitants of Mehrgarh also constructed, air-dried mud-brick structures, between 7000 and 3300 BC. and later the ancient Indus Valley cities of Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, and Mehrgarh. Ceramic, or fired brick was used as early as 3000 BC in early Indus Valley cities like Kalibangan.
In the middle of the third millennium BC, there was a rise in monumental baked brick architecture in Indus cities. Examples included the Great Bath at Mohenjo-daro, the fire altars of Kaalibangan, and the granary of Harappa. There was a uniformity to the brick sizes throughout the Indus Valley region, conforming to the 1:2:4, thickness, width, and length ratio. As the Indus civilization began its decline at the start of the second millennium BC, Harappans migrated east, spreading their knowledge of brickmaking technology. This led to the rise of cities like Pataliputra, Kausambi, and Ujjain, where there was an enormous demand for kiln-made bricks.
The earliest fired bricks appeared in Neolithic China around 4400 BC at Chengtoushan, a walled settlement of the Daxi culture. These bricks were made of red clay, fired on all sides to above 600 C, and used as flooring for houses. By the Qujialing period (3300 BC), fired bricks were being used to pave roads and as building foundations at Chengtoushan.
According to Lukas Nickel, the use of ceramic pieces for protecting and decorating floors and walls dates back at various cultural sites to 3000-2000 BC and perhaps even before, but these elements should be rather qualified as tiles. For the longest time builders relied on wood, mud and rammed earth, while fired brick and mud-brick played no structural role in architecture. Proper brick construction, for erecting walls and vaults, finally emerges in the third century BC, when baked bricks of regular shape began to be employed for vaulting underground tombs. Hollow brick tomb chambers rose in popularity as builders were forced to adapt due to a lack of readily available wood or stone. The oldest extant brick building above ground is possibly Songyue Pagoda, dated to 523 AD.
By the end of the third century BCE in China, both hollow and small bricks were available for use in building walls and ceilings. Small fired bricks were first mass-produced during the construction of the tomb of China's first Emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi. The floors of the three pits of the terracotta army were paved with an estimated 230,000 small bricks, with the majority measuring 28x14x7 cm, following a 4:2:1 ratio. Up until the Middle Ages, buildings in Central Asia were typically built with unbaked bricks. It was only starting in the ninth century CE when buildings were entirely constructed using fired bricks.
The carpenter's manual Yingzao Fashi, published in 1103 at the time of the Song dynasty described the brick making process and glazing techniques then in use. Using the 17th-century encyclopaedic text Tiangong Kaiwu, historian Timothy Brook outlined the brick production process of Ming Dynasty China: .mw-parser-output .templatequoteoverflow:hidden;margin:1em 0;padding:0 40px.mw-parser-output .templatequote .templatequoteciteline-height:1.5em;text-align:left;padding-left:1.6em;margin-top:0
...the kilnmaster had to make sure that the temperature inside the kiln stayed at a level that caused the clay to shimmer with the colour of molten gold or silver. He also had to know when to quench the kiln with water so as to produce the surface glaze. To anonymous labourers fell the less skilled stages of brick production: mixing clay and water, driving oxen over the mixture to trample it into a thick paste, scooping the paste into standardised wooden frames (to produce a brick roughly 42 cm long, 20 cm wide, and 10 cm thick), smoothing the surfaces with a wire-strung bow, removing them from the frames, printing the fronts and backs with stamps that indicated where the bricks came from and who made them, loading the kilns with fuel (likelier wood than coal), stacking the bricks in the kiln, removing them to cool while the kilns were still hot, and bundling them into pallets for transportation. It was hot, filthy work.
Early civilisations around the Mediterranean, including the Ancient Greeks and Romans, adopted the use of fired bricks. By the early first century CE, standardised fired bricks were being heavily produced in Rome. The Roman legions operated mobile kilns, and built large brick structures throughout the Roman Empire, stamping the bricks with the seal of the legion. The Romans used brick for walls, arches, forts, aqueducts, etc. Notable mentions of Roman brick structures are the Herculaneum gate of Pompeii and the baths of Caracalla.
During the Early Middle Ages the use of bricks in construction became popular in Northern Europe, after being introduced there from Northwestern Italy. An independent style of brick architecture, known as brick Gothic (similar to Gothic architecture) flourished in places that lacked indigenous sources of rocks. Examples of this architectural style can be found in modern-day Denmark, Germany, Poland, and Kaliningrad (former East Prussia).
This style evolved into the Brick Renaissance as the stylistic changes associated with the Italian Renaissance spread to northern Europe, leading to the adoption of Renaissance elements into brick building. Identifiable attributes included a low-pitched hipped or flat roof, symmetrical facade, round arch entrances and windows, columns and pilasters, and more.
Long-distance bulk transport of bricks and other construction equipment remained prohibitively expensive until the development of modern transportation infrastructure, with the construction of canal, roads, and railways.
Production of bricks increased massively with the onset of the Industrial Revolution and the rise in factory building in England. For reasons of speed and economy, bricks were increasingly preferred as building material to stone, even in areas where the stone was readily available. It was at this time in London that bright red brick was chosen for construction to make the buildings more visible in the heavy fog and to help prevent traffic accidents.
The transition from the traditional method of production known as hand-moulding to a mechanised form of mass-production slowly took place during the first half of the nineteenth century. Possibly the first successful brick-making machine was patented by Henry Clayton, employed at the Atlas Works in Middlesex, England, in 1855, and was capable of producing up to 25,000 bricks daily with minimal supervision. His mechanical apparatus soon achieved widespread attention after it was adopted for use by the South Eastern Railway Company for brick-making at their factory near Folkestone. The Bradley & Craven Ltd 'Stiff-Plastic Brickmaking Machine' was patented in 1853, apparently predating Clayton. Bradley & Craven went on to be a dominant manufacturer of brickmaking machinery. Predating both Clayton and Bradley & Craven Ltd. however was the brick making machine patented by Richard A. Ver Valen of Haverstraw, New York, in 1852.
At the end of the 19th century, the Hudson River region of New York State would become the world's largest brick manufacturing region, with 130 brickyards lining the shores of the Hudson River from Mechanicsville to Haverstraw and employing 8,000 people. At its peak, about 1 billion bricks were produced a year, with many being sent to New York City for use in its construction industry.
Following pioneering work in the 1950s at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the Building Research Establishment in Watford, UK, the use of improved masonry for the construction of tall structures up to 18 storeys high was made viable. However, the use of brick has largely remained restricted to small to medium-sized buildings, as steel and concrete remain superior materials for high-rise construction.
Unfired bricks, also known as mud-bricks, are made from a mixture of silt, clay, sand and other earth materials like gravel and stone, combined with tempers and binding agents such as chopped straw, grasses, tree bark, or dung. Since these bricks are made up of natural materials and only require heat from the Sun to bake, mud-bricks have a relatively low embodied energy and carbon footprint. 041b061a72