Comfort Block: 90-Year-Old Maine Company Creates High-Performing Green Masonry Product

Masonry, one of the oldest and most beautiful trades, has been on a steady decline since the 1960s. Due to dramatic changes in the way today’s homes, chimneys, foundations and steps are being constructed, the industry is at its lowest point in 80 years. The average age of masonry professionals is increasing and the number entering apprenticeships is declining. In the northeast corner of the U.S., a Maine-based masonry company is quietly working to revive the declining industry through new product development and innovation.…

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Bricks Incorporated: Reclaiming Chicago Common Brick

Bricks Incorporated got its start in the late 1960s as a demolition and salvage company in Chicago. When an old factory or home was scheduled for demolition, the company salvaged any desirable materials, including brick, steel, terra cotta and copper, then packaged and sold it for reuse. In the 1970s, the company scrapped the demolition business while continuing to salvage materials, and diversified into the manufacture of new brick and stone.…

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Seismic Retrofitting of Masonry Buildings: Why It’s Needed

Shortly before 1 p.m. on Feb. 22, 2011, Christchurch, New Zealand, started to shake. Ten seconds are all it took to change the landscape and the lives of residents: 185 dead, several thousand injured, and 45 percent of buildings deemed unsafe to enter. While many of the deaths in the earthquake occurred in a small number of building collapses, unreinforced masonry (URM) construction suffered widespread damage. However, while the Royal Commission Report identified that 97 percent of the unstrengthened URM buildings in the Central Business District were either seriously damaged or collapsed, only 20 percent of buildings that had been retrofit to a high level experienced serious damage.…

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Tornado Season Underscores the Importance of Reinforced Masonry Wall Systems

Although peak tornado season typically occurs April through June, violent outbursts struck early this year and featured one of the largest tornado events to ever occur in winter. The January 21–23 spate of storms produced 79 confirmed tornadoes across the Deep South from Texas to South Carolina, resulting in the second-deadliest January outbreak on record. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. averages more than 1,000 tornadoes per year — more than any other country. Annual insurance losses from U.S. tornadoes and thunderstorms range in the billions, with the costliest event occurring in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and nearby areas in April 2011, resulting in $7.8 billion in insured damages.…

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Hardscaping and Landscape Architecture: Better Living Through Masonry

Everyone knows that Americans need to get outside and get active. Report after report shows that obesity and inactivity are making us sicker and shortening our lives. Despite all the studies and surveys, convincing us to shed our sedentary ways has proven to be a tough sell for health advocates. Masonry may be part of the solution, making the great outdoors a place where more of us want to be.…

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Hardscaping and Landscape Architecture: Ball State University’s Architecture Offering

While I was visiting Savannah, Ga., earlier this year, I was waiting to cross at an intersection when I spotted a girl wearing a t-shirt that said “architecture.” Being the inquisitive type, I asked her if she was studying architecture. She said that indeed she was, at Ball State University (BSU) in Muncie, Ind. Her mother, who was with her, explained that the young woman was studying landscape architecture and was in her first year. Because all of us were obviously on our way somewhere, I asked the student for her contact information so that I could ask some questions about her studies, and I gave her my business card.…

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Natural Stone: Restoring the Minnesota State Capitol

What do you get when you mix 30,000 pieces of existing exterior façade stone, a quarry that is no longer in use, and a team of 13 AEC and trade professionals from around the globe? You get the prestigious 2016 Grande Pinnacle Award from the MIA+BSI for the exterior restoration of the Minnesota State Capitol Building in St. Paul.…

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Project Spotlight: SunTrust Park

This was no ordinary brick laying. Forty-one years after Atlanta Braves slugger Hank Aaron hit his historic 715th home run — the one that surpassed Babe Ruth’s all-time record — he carefully slid a trowel with mortar across a red brick and placed it alongside another emblazoned with words commemorating the start of construction of the Braves’ new stadium, SunTrust Park.…

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Lighting the Way to Added Value

Good companies are always looking for ways to add value for their customers. The best ones are able to grow their business while doing it. Bahler Brothers, a design-build firm in Connecticut, has discovered that outdoor lighting adds substantial value to their masonry projects. Combining masonry and lighting extends the hours their customers can enjoy their outdoor living area. This was the case with a recent Bahler Brothers installation in Massachusetts that won a 2016 Hardscape North America Project Award in one of the residential categories.…

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Paver Lighting: Unobtrusive Accent Illumination, Weather Resistance and Design Versatility

The front yard of a charming, craftsman-style home in central New Jersey, built in 1926, has a winding front walkway of interlocking pavers around a lighted koi pond with a natural stone waterfall. Connecting to a side driveway of interlocking concrete pavers the path leads to a rear deck and detached garage. Hardscape lighting was important to the long-time owners, a senior couple who sought needed demarcation for safety, in addition to desired visual aesthetics and curb appeal. The small footprint and understated, 2 -inch round design of Evening Star® paver lights provided both of these benefits in a low-voltage, accent lighting option for all paved areas around the home.…

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