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Issue #24

With passive houses, in particular, brick construction has a positive effect on the indoor climate. Brick has better thermal insulation properties than other materials. You can also affect the internal acoustics, so brick allows you to do everything to achieve a comfortable atmosphere.

Anja & Jochen Engelshove

Anja & Jochen Engelshove
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Anja & Jochen Engelshove
Anja & Jochen Engelshove

BETTER CONSTRUCTION WITH BRICK

Green building

The architecture firm Engelshove likes designing and building with brick. Their core business is single-family homes, but the firm also works on industrial architecture projects. The use of brick in passive house projects is particularly noticeable.

On your website you have a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “To build a future, you must live in the present”. How does this idea influence your work?

When we start a new job, our first discussions with the client are an intensive analysis of the way they live. How they are currently living is an important part of that. For us, that’s the starting point. We want to find out as much as possible about the client before we begin the planning process.

Does it become apparent at this stage what materials would be suitable to make the customers feel comfortable?

Natural construction materials, of the highest possible quality, are certainly suitable for the quality of the environment. Brick is perfect in that sense. Of course, a lot also depends on taste, and the location and plot are crucial. External influences, the surroundings, and sometimes even restrictions imposed by development plans, also play a significant role.

Building: Passive House
© Engelshove
Building: Passive House
© Engelshove

You prefer using brick for your projects. How important is the choice of building materials? How important are they in terms of sustainability and durability?

We really like brick architecture, as you can tell from our office. Brick materials exude durability. Quite simply, a brick façade means something different to a plaster surface. But, of course, we often end up using a combination, which depends on the architecture and the premises.

You also prefer brick for passive house projects. Lots of passive house designs use wood, concrete, etc. What is the special quality that you feel you achieve by building with brick?

First and foremost it’s the longevity of the material. You can see it in the façade – I won’t need to do anything for 80 years. Many other types of façade need repeated interventions to keep them looking good.

And what about indoors? How does it help create a feel-good atmosphere?

Brick is often incorporated in the internal rooms, but there are also plastered walls. When mixing materials, we’re guided by the philosophy that less is more.

 

Wienerberger brick facade detail view garden Stadtvilla am Phoenixsee
© Ralf Pieper
brick facade single family house front view Stadtvilla am Phoenixsee
© Ralf Pieper

What are the challenges involved in successfully completely a passive house project these days?

With brick, passive houses are relatively easily to build. It’s easily manageable with brick construction, there are no particular problems. The versatility of brick makes it suitable for a diverse range of styles – for clear, modern lines, but also for existing older buildings.

Brick lends itself to a huge spectrum of creative possibilities. Once a block has been chosen, the next question is what kind of joints and what colour mortar shall we use? How will the bricks be laid? There are so many variables that you really can use brick in a variety of ways. You don’t always have to use a classic red brick or facing brickwork.

 

Do different types of construction affect the indoor climate?

In terms of the external façade – of course there are differences, such as how much water a block can absorb. With passive houses, in particular, brick construction has a positive effect on the indoor climate. Brick has better thermal insulation properties than other materials. You can also affect the internal acoustics, so brick allows you to do everything to achieve a comfortable atmosphere.

You yourself live in a brick-built passive house, and can speak from experience when advising your clients. Does feedback from your clients suggest that their expectations are being met?

We’ve only had positive feedback so far. The clients are proud of their new homes, they feel comfortable in them. They’re happy with the indoor climate and atmosphere.