The green building movement seeks to identify building materials that minimize environmental impacts in their creation and use, and minimize health risks to building occupants. Three out of four buildings cited in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Environmental Resource Guide as outstanding examples of green buildings use masonry as a major component of the design. The multifunctional properties that have always made masonry an attractive material offer particular benefits when viewed from an environmental standpoint.
Indoor Air Quality and Building Ecology
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that "sick building syndrome" now costs the national economy approximately $60 billion a year in absenteeism and reduced worker productivity. Masonry products generally are inert and do not contribute to indoor air quality problems. They contain no toxins or volatile organic compounds, and emit no chemical pollutants as they age.
Masonry Construction Operations
Masonry construction practices generally pose little hazard to the environment because most of the materials used are chemically inert. But mortar mixing and stone cutting can generate airborne particulate wastes such as silica dust.
Reducing and Recycling Waste
Construction and demolition wastes are estimated to account for as much as 33% of the municipal solid waste. To slow the flow of waste to landfills, local governments have sharply increased fees at dumps and transfer stations. Used masonry long has been recycled for residential landscape applications. More recently, a company in California has begun crushing broken units and blending them with new aggregate.