Sustainable Brick Walls

By Brandon Osborne

While the use of sustainable materials (recyclable, recovered, locally purchased) are all considerations when designing sustainable brick veneer walls, materials are only one important factor when it comes to sustainability; the design and proper installation of each product used is far more important.

The typical brick veneer wall is designed using the following considerations.

  • AIR SPACE between the building substrate and the brick veneer is recommended to be 2” to 4-1/2” from steel framing to the back of the brick veneer. The maximum distance can be increased with the rational design of an anchoring system. Although exterior sheathing and rigid insulation are used to insulate the wall cavity of a brick veneer system, having the correct air space is an important factor in creating energy efficiency within the system.
  • FLASHING is designed to create a water resistant envelope for the building. The proper installation sequence of weather resistive air/water barriers should be carefully considered during the condensation analysis of any brick veneer system.
  • ANCHORS, ANGLES and LINTELS for the brick veneer system should be designed using compatible metals and creating an efficient system for the brick veneer wall. Fasteners, expansion joints, steel studs or metal flashing factors should be carefully detailed during the design of any brick veneer system.


The sustainability of a brick veneer wall depends heavily on the correct installation of each of its material components. Because the key to success of brick veneer projects is the installation, regular field presence by the architect and/or engineer is necessary.  Contractors are under extreme pressures to cut costs and as a result they sometimes cut corners.  The architect/engineer and on-site staff of the Owner must be vigilant in observing the construction and insisting that the details be met in every way. A rigorous sampling process at the start of the job will result in an assembly that can successfully be repeated on a wider scale.

While no brick veneer system can be guaranteed to provide 100% sustainability, taking care to implement the proper coordination of typically used materials is always better than any unchecked technology that may flood our markets with the “green” marketing tag. Sustainability boils down to durability, energy efficiency and adaptability. While the many integral systems on the market may fit your needs today, durability and future use should be taken into account. The future of sustainable construction materials has as much to do with technology as with proper coordination and installation of these products.