Getting Creative with Brick Design

Bricks are one of the world’s oldest building materials and have been used in the construction of many iconic structures, including New York’s Empire State Building. Scott Denham, Sales Director from IG Masonry Support, gives insight into the limitless design opportunities bricks enable across commercial and residential applications.

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Brick has been around for centuries and has been used and specified by architects across many generations, mainly because of its consistent shape, compressive strength and ability to absorb water. Whilst trends towards other materials come and go, architects’ love affair with it continues. Over the past decade, however, brick has been competing with other solutions, including the likes of cladding. Now, brick is seeing something of a resurgence, and with this has come a wave of clients wanting to emulate modern interpretations of classic architecture.

Architecturally, the intricate detailing that brickwork enables is like no other. Brick detail in the form of brick soffits, deep reveals and flying beams continually make for stunning exteriors, enabling architects to create truly unique facades.

Brick has long been the go-to material in the UK and Ireland, but the likes of the modern cladding system have become quick and cost-effective ways to create bright and modern looking buildings. However, it comes at a cost and this is partly due to the long-term aesthetics, as modern cladding systems can look tired and dated over time. There can be no denying that many brick facades look as impressive today as they did when they were created decades ago.

Create beautiful brickwork

As a result of brick’s popularity and limitless design potential, there has been a need for a market solution that enables intricate brickwork patterning to be achieved in many iterations.

IG Masonry Support designed and manufactured five soaring corbelled brick slip feature arches with bond patterns that span the entrance facade of the Hendrick’s Gin Palace foyer in Scotland, a project designed by Michael Laird Architects and built by main contractor McLaughlin & Harvey. In total, 10 arches featuring on the front elevation were successfully manufactured to the same quality finish in factory-controlled conditions and fitted seamlessly with the brickwork on site. Internally, three deep soffit arches were manufactured off site and then supplied to site.

The same levels of consistency and quality were essential on the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC) project designed by Purcell, Steffian Bradley Architects and John Simpson Architects, built by main contractor Interserve and brickwork contractor Lee Marley, and featuring builders’ merchants, EH Smith. Over 1000 brick slip feature arches and just under 3km of offsite cornice were manufactured and designed. It would have been a time-consuming, highly-skilled task to create arches and cornice using traditional methods on site, but offsite solutions enabled the creation of identical arches of various designs and cornice detail that would achieve the architect’s desired aesthetic.

The uniformity that was essential to these projects run the risk of being compromised if traditional trades were employed. However, with modular construction, this replication simply isn’t an issue. Taking the construction of complex brick features off site into factory-controlled conditions drives the level of quality and consistency that is needed to achieve excellence. On both of these projects, intricate brickwork detailing was completed to stunning effect, enabling the same quality finish every time.

A bespoke solution for architects

At IG Masonry Support, not only do we understand that architects need to be given creative authority over prefabricated brick features, but we also realise the importance of regulatory compliance and quality.

Achieving deep brick soffits and intricate brick bonds around window heads and openings is quick, easy and cost-efficient to achieve with our Brick On Soffit Systems (B.O.S.S. and B.O.S.S.+). These tailor-made bespoke solutions are designed and manufactured to meet the client’s specification. The systems are highly adjustable, enabling architects to design various shapes and depths of brick soffits whilst accommodating a wide range of bond patterns.

IG Masonry Support designed and manufactured the B.O.S.S. systems for 57 Broadwick Street and Stonebridge Park, London. On the first project – designed by Rolfe Judd Architecture, built by main contractor Blenheim House Construction and brickwork contractor Grangewood, and featuring EH Smith – curved and straight B.O.S.S. units and deep soffit panels were created to achieve a range of deep-tiled soffits, slender brick piers, and tile and brick banding on the building’s facades. For Stonebridge Park, London – built by main contractor Durkan and designed by architect firm Cullinan Studio – B.O.S.S. units were designed and manufactured for the intricate corbelled brick feature at the site’s entrance. This design was delivered in separate components that facilitated optimum adjustability, so the intricacy of the design could be achieved without compromising the speed and quality of construction.

To meet changes to Building Regulations, IG Masonry Support engineered B.O.S.S.+, an A2 fire-rated system suitable for use on projects that require Building Regulations Document B compliance. The second generation of its original B.O.S.S. system, B.O.S.S.+ comprises a stainless-steel framework with a cement particle board backing element to which the brick slips are adhesively bonded and mechanically fixed. In short, this BBA-certified solution ticked the boxes in all of the required areas and was available to the market in 2019.

Not resting on its laurels, IG Masonry Support’s next step was to create a fully non-combustible and carbon-neutral product. The BBA-certified B.O.S.S. A1 system is ‘A1’ fire-rated and has been subjected to hygrothermal testing. The product passed the rigorous examination with ease. As well as meeting current fire regulations regardless of the building’s height or purpose, the manufacturing process and environmental impacts will be significantly reduced.

No matter how ambitious the design, IG Masonry Support’s easy-to-install solutions can deliver significant reductions in installation time by up to 90%. Any higher initial costs can be offset by saving time and money in terms of labour. A quality finish that meets the required aesthetics and blends seamlessly with the surrounding brickwork can also be achieved.

Brick is a building material that has always been here to stay. Now that the likes of IG Masonry Support have engineered a solution that assures intricate brick detailing can be executed without compromise to quality, it will surely be used on many stunning structures for years to come.

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