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Hanson Brick - products and services

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Over the next three pages we look at some of the ways Hanson Brick is improving the products and services it offers customers

Made by hand There are real signs of a revival in the popularity of handmade bricks, and Hanson is preparing for an increase in demand. Each week around 80,000 handmade facings are currently made at the company's Heather factory in Leicestershire. This is small in comparison with overall annual brick output, but in this case small is beautiful. The range already offers seven unique facings, and three new bricks are scheduled to join the collection this year.

It is the desire for individuality that drives the market for handmade bricks. No two are the same, and their unique differences provide the appeal and charm that make them so desirable. The image of skilled craftsmen creating every brick by hand appears increasingly attractive but this, of course, carries a premium.

Handmade bricks are still used mainly for commercial projects and public buildings, but increasingly developers of fine housing are using them on new properties to satisfy demand for top-end properties that have traditional aesthetic values.

The fine-textured handmades used in great historic buildings are much sought after. The three new facings from Hanson Brick are more uniform in finish than the originals in the range and have finer fissures. In spite of the company's reputation for volume manufacturing, with all its associated efficiencies, there still remains an opportunity to produce bricks in smaller quantities at realistic prices, allowing them to compete in markets believed to be served only by small, bespoke manufacturers.

A thriving market for smaller 50mm handmade bricks is also developing. They have become popular for interior feature brickwork and are capable of achieving a totally different visual perspective. Together with special shapes to match the handmade products, they are all produced by Hanson at its Heather factory.

Arches made easy The arch is one of the most popular brickwork details to be incorporated in a building structure. Arches have been used in masonry construction for centuries and they provide one of the first examples of a structural supporting element.

Although, since the introduction of the cavity wall, load-bearing brickwork arches are no longer required to support the floors and masonry above (the task of the modern lintel), arch details are still popular. They are commonly used as brickwork features in present-day buildings, particularly to enhance the aesthetics of doors and windows. Common forms include flat gauged Georgian, segmental, semi-circular and Gothic. More recently, numerous hybrid configurations have evolved which take account of cost, simplicity of fabrication and ease of construction.

With ever-tighter cost control demanded of building materials, Hanson Brick's Fabrik Arch range of brick arch details offers the desired benefits of reduced cost, high quality and aesthetic appeal. Fabrik Arches are prefabricated from standard facing-brick slips and are available in Charnwood Natural and Countryside Multi Buff. The slips are cut to shape and applied to aerated concrete blocks with an epoxy-resin-based compound. The brick slips are designated FL, being frost resistant with low soluble-salt content.

The use of aerated concrete means that the arches are lightweight and can be handled easily on site. Since the arches sit directly on standard proprietary lintels, there is no need for complex arch formers.

Consistent quality of both materials and the finished unit is guaranteed as each Fabrik Arch is manufactured in factory conditions and the skill required of the bricklayer is kept to a minimum. The only on-site operation is that of pointing the arch after placement.

Pale face Two new facings have joined the extensive Butterley range. Satisfying demand for creamcoloured bricks, they offer great opportunity for accentuating brickwork detail features.

The smooth-faced Butterley Carnforth and the drag-faced Kendal are both manufactured at Hanson Brick's Claughton Manor factory in Lancashire. This is the home of hi-tech brick manufacture and one of the most modern locations in the company's portfolio.

Made from local clay, both facings conform to BS3921. Perforated and carrying an FL durability classification, they have a water absorbency of less than 12 (per cent by weight) and a compressive strength of >40 (N/mm 2).Competitively priced, the facings are satisfying demand from developers in the north of England and in Scotland. You can see Hanson Brick's Brick Selector with Mix & Match facility at www.

hanson-brickseurope. com, or on colourmatched photographic panels.

Putting on a brave facade Hanson Brick will carry out a building feasibility study to help the construction team arrive at the best facade solution for your building. The company's portfolio of wall systems is under constant review and development with the objective of providing the most appropriate solution for particular building designs. This may involve prefabricated wall panels, composite construction or the use of high-strength adhesive mortars. Alternatively, Hanson Brick may recommend that either traditional masonry, structural brickwork or single-skin cladding to a steel or timber frame would provide the best answer to a client's brief.

In all cases the best achievable results depend upon an early opportunity to assess the problem, that is, at the start of the design development stage. Where innovative design or construction techniques are to be applied, or when new material developments are used, it is essential to ensure that the whole construction team and the client are willing to cooperate.

Investment in new building methods takes a great deal of time. However, all this input and hours of testing, detailing and making models is no substitute for a trial project. Many of the highly publicised demonstration projects have been successful due to this fact alone. It may be questionable whether a direct cost saving is made on the first project but the benefits come from the lessons learned and the knowledge that is taken forward into the next application.

Public achievement The Lakeside Residences at Aston University, Birmingham, designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Architects, won the Best Public Building prize in the recent BDA Brick Awards. The scheme ranges from four to 16 storeys in height and is arranged in two blocks running north to south to ensure good natural daylight for its 651 students.

The in-situ concrete frame is clad in a combination of terracotta brickwork and terracotta rain screen.

Horizontally projecting brick string sills and recessed brick bands at window level echo the horizontal emphasis of the cladding. The brickwork on the lift towers is given scale by the introduction of vertical and horizontal recessed stack-bonded courses. At the heart of the scheme is a communal courtyard, and the buildings form a boundary to the campus.

Brick: Desimpel Rossini, 290x90x65mm Main contractor: Laing Construction Structural engineer: Buro Happold Testing gears up Manufacturers are concerned with routine material testing in order to show compliance of their products with the relevant codes and standards. For brick manufacturers this involves tests to show weather resistance, dimensional tolerances and basic physical properties such as unit compressive strength and water absorption.

As manufacturers of building materials become increasingly involved with the development of the facade, be it simply external cladding or structural elements, they need to provide much more comprehensive technical information relating to the structural behaviour of the materials. Many of the new and innovative ideas have no long-term history with respect to performance - and this is a parameter that often plays a great part in proving the track record of a product.

When Hanson Brick's design teams are introduced to a new idea, these ideas must be supported with much more detailed technical information. Brickwork comprises bricks and mortar - there are three components and three areas of responsibility, ie the brick, the mortar and the brickwork. If a wall panel is supplied, there is only one area of responsibility. There will often be new materials and compositions of various materials for which there is quite often no British Standard either for material testing or for good building practice. This increases the material supplier's need to provide a more in-depth testing programme.

Hanson Brick has been developing an in-house structural testing facility. This carries out flexural-strength or lateral-loading tests. It is a time-consuming operation which requires the construction of small wall panels (wallettes) that are then tested to destruction to determine the 'bending strength'. The need for such testing is particularly important with the development of thin-bed masonry adhesives and for brickwork which uses the less common bonding patterns, such as stack-bonded brickwork with its continuous joints both horizontally and vertically.

The company works closely with independent testing houses, for example CERAM in Stoke on Trent, and is often in consultation with other material specialists, such as Ancon Clarke which produce ties and fixings and is able to evaluate the structural performance of wall ties in non-conventional masonry.

All of this makes for greater responsibility for the material producer as they become an increasingly important member of the construction team.

CPD on changing faces There is a continuous high level of enquiries regarding the use of non standard-sized clay bricks coupled with the desire to try new and innovative building techniques. This has led Hanson Brick to add a further CPD module to the current portfolio.

The new module, aimed at architects requiring continuing professional development, will review the renewed interest that designers are showing in providing facades that use larger brick units, alternative bonding patterns and possible construction alternatives.

Hanson Brick makes a number of clay bricks that measure 290x90x90 and 290x90x65mm. To achieve a 'tiled' appearance, it also makes bricks that are only 47mm in height. These, when used with a 3mm joint, provide a coursing height of 50mm.

The larger units, coupled with the change from traditional stretcher bond to the more ambitious stack bonding, will provide a uniformity to the clay brickwork that might otherwise only be achieved with tiles. Such systems put a greater demand on the company's design and technical support facilities, as it is often necessary to assist designers with details for ties and fixings as well as to provide test data for the strength of stack-bonded panels. Where a thin mortar joint may be the preferred finish, it is possible to use a high-strength adhesive as opposed to the standard cement-and-sand mortars.

Hanson Brick's CPD module will aim to review the design, detailing and construction of modular bricks and thin-bed adhesive technology.

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