It is possible to identify major areas of environmental concern and discuss in a general way their relation to masonry materials. These major areas of concern are: resource management; embodied energy; pollution potential; life-cycle and disposal issues.
The raw materials for brick manufacture are both easily acquired and efficiently used. Besides using the requisite materials efficiently, brickmaking can incorporate and dispose of a number of other waste materials harmlessly. The main energy cost associated with brick manufacturing is the fuel burned in the firing process.
The major component material of concrete block -- the sand and various coarser aggregates -- is abundant, easy to extract from the earth, and widely distributed. Energy consumption is the biggest environmental concern with concrete production. Pollution concerns associated with concrete center on two main factors. One is carbon dioxide emissions from cement production. The second is particulate emissions from cement production. Concrete accounts for a significant portion of construction and demolition waste -- 53% by volume and 67% by weight. Only about 5% of this currently is recycled.
Mortar and Grout
Because mortar and grout consist of the same basic materials as concrete block, most of the same environmental concerns apply.
Natural building stone such as granite, marble, limestone, slate, and sandstone, accounts for a much smaller percentage of the overall masonry market than either clay brick or concrete masonry. Information on its environmental impact also is harder to come by.