Drive through the streets of Baltimore or Washington, D.C. and you’ll see lines of rowhouses, hospitals, schools and government buildings constructed with moulded brick. These are brick cities, with long traditions of beautiful masonry. Clay and other raw materials are readily available throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and local plants have been producing moulded brick for more than 100 years – and most of these buildings are still standing strong.
Like all brick structures, moulded brick buildings are sturdy and long-lasting. But many architects feel this material has a “dated” or “old-fashioned” look and can’t be used to produce a modern appearance. And the permanence of moulded brick buildings only fuels this misconception. Moulded brick is versatile and can be used in numerous ways to create a striking contemporary building – both commercial and residential – outside of the traditional colonial architectural style many architects associate with it.
About Moulded Brick
The main two methods for manufacturing brick are through extrusion and moulding. Moulded brick is a brick that’s typically produced in a wooden mold. Clay (or shale) is used to create a soft mud and is then forced (by hand or machine) into a wood mold box. There’s also a dusting of sand inside the box to help the newly formed brick release smoothly. Moulded brick is incredibly versatile—shapes can easily be made and a wide variety of colors can be produced by adding iron oxide to the sand.
Moulded Brick: Rich History
Throughout Maryland and D.C., you’ll be treated to the historic grandeur of moulded brick buildings. It’s rich past and availability of raw materials throughout the Mid-Atlantic region make it a smart choice for architects who are looking to design buildings that not only modern but also sustainable.
Tom Sheridan, masonry specialist at Potomac Valley Brick, told Masonry Magazine, “there was a day when everybody made brick by hand. Today, there are only five or fewer companies making brick this way.” Cushwa Brick Co. (Cushwa) is one of the most notable manufacturers. Founded in 1872 on the banks of the Potomac River and C&O Canal in Williamsport, MD, Cushwa is one of the largest operating moulded brickmaking facilities in the country, to this day.
So, what do Cushwa bricks look like? All you need to do is look no further than Baltimore’s Camden Yards baseball stadium. Constructed next to the old red brick B&O Warehouse and considered one of the most beautiful baseball stadiums in the country, Camden Yards is constructed using Cushwa’s exclusive Camden Blend.
Making It Modern
The first bricks made in North American English colonies were likely crafted in Virginia as early as 1612. Brickmaking is not only a way to produce brick but also an art form. Using moulded brick in architecture creates a softer, smoother look that’s dignified, timeless and stately and matches seamlessly with other architectural elements such as glass, metal, concrete, stone and more.
As architects look to design more distinctive commercial, residential and institutional structures, brickmakers are continuing to evolve and inspire state-of-the-art and enduring designs. Unique shapes can produce interesting curved or angled walls, alternating different colors can create interesting depths and orientations, changing patterns can build visual interest and scale, all coming together to help elevate architectural style for small and large projects.
Jason Raivel, sales manager for Potomac Valley Brick, drafted an article for MASONRY Magazine about moulded brick, it's history and using this material to build modern, contemporary structures. Read the full piece HERE.
Potomac Valley Brick supplied brick for Miller and Smith's new townhomes called West Village at One Loudoun located in Ashburn, VA. This month, Builder & Developer Magazine featured the project in their monthly magazine. Along with WC Ralston Architects, we were able to create a beautiful townhouse inspired by New York's Gramercy Park.
Check out the article in January's edition on page 34 by clicking HERE.
In mid-October, Potomac Valley Brick hosted its annual brick laying demonstration at UMD's School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation.
Potomac Valley Brick expert, Kevin Gladd, wrote an article for Construction Executive entitled Reduce Costs by Building With Brick. The piece outlines the reasons that make brick a competitive material offering a lasting investment. Read the full piece HERE.
Potomac Valley Brick is honored to receive a Best in Class award from the Brick Industry Association in the category of Residential/Multi-Family for our work on The Hine Project. This award recognizes projects that feature clay brick as the primary building material in an innovative, unusual, aesthetically appealing design.
Closing in 2007, Hine Junior High School in Capitol Hill presented developers Stanton-EastBanc with a unique opportunity to transform the historic property into a mixed-use development. Connecting Eastern Market and the Metro station, the Hine Project includes apartments, retail and office space, a plaza and underground parking in the architecturally distinguished and culturally diverse Hill community.
Check out the full list of award winners HERE.
The concept of ‘sustainability’ is firmly situated in the present. More and more, it’s becoming increasingly important as we begin to realize—and try to reduce—our impact on the environment. Many people are often surprised to know that masonry, one of the oldest building methods in the world, is also one of the most sustainable.
Historically brick is more durable, less resource intensive, and requires less maintenance than other building materials. Brick provides thermal storage by storing heat and releasing it slowly to keep buildings cooler during the day and warmer at night, helping to reduce energy costs. Brick doesn’t require varnish or finish, mitigating chemical impacts to the environment, and is also easily recyclable.
At Potomac Valley Brick, we’re continuing to advance the use of sustainable brick with the help of one of our manufacturers—Green Leaf Brick. Composed from 100 percent recycled content, Green Leaf Bricks are designed and engineered specifically for sustainable construction, including projects requiring LEED certification. These bricks are made from waste streams that have little to no remaining commercial use. Through an innovative manufacturing process, a real masonry brick is created that’s composed entirely of refuse including materials rescued from landfills, open pit mining byproducts and plant refuse, processed sewage wastes, recycled iron oxides, recycled glass, mineral tailings and other virgin ceramic scrap. There are currently more than 25 different recycled raw materials approved for use in Green Leaf Brick including up 31 percent post-consumer waste.
What’s revolutionary about Green Leaf is that its bricks aren’t reclaimed or reused. Green Leaf Bricks are the only sustainable bricks made from 100 percent recycled content that are fully ASTM certified real clay brick. In the last few years, using recycled or reclaimed brick has become more common, but doing so can compromise the classic look, feel, durability, and stability of new brick structures. With Green Leaf, customers benefit from the use of authentic fired masonry brick and pavers.
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most extensively utilized green rating system in the world and provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings. When builders and architects are seeking certification, sustainability is a key component. Green Leaf’s production methods help its brick meet strict criteria considered in the LEED certification process. The potential for earning a certification is also enhanced by the fact that Green Leaf produces bricks made only with regional materials sourced near its production facilities.
To learn more about the benefits of sustainable brick and the options available through Green Leaf, contact Potomac Valley Brick today.
On a sunny Friday afternoon at our Frederick, MD showroom, PVB Masonry Services hosted a live, in-person demo of our latest technology – MULE. This revolutionary lift assist device creates a weightless feel, reduces injuries and boosts productivity by handling and placing material up to 135 lbs.
Attendees got to witness experts at PVB Masonry Services operate MULE to construct a 24-foot long wall using 32-inch long block.
They had an opportunity to get hands-on, testing out MULE themselves to see just how seamless and easy the device can make the heavy lifting process.
SAM100 – our state-of-the-art bricklaying robot – was also up and running, showing off its incredible production speed and accuracy.
Afterwards, everyone gathered to network and enjoy a delicious lunch from locally owned and operated The Blues BBQ Co. food truck.
A big thank you to everyone who came out to see our latest innovations and learn more about the future of masonry!
Potomac Valley Brick was recently featured in an article in SMART Dynamics of Masonry, written by Christopher Raddell of Construction Robotics.
The piece discusses Digitally Designed - Robotically Placed Masonry and showcases SAM's work on Potomac Valley Brick's Frederick, MD showroom which included digitizing the company logo, working up several alternatives with the Map Tool software and then place the selected wall and logo - without any field layout time required.
Check out the full article on page 20 of this month's magazine.
Potomac Valley Brick is pleased to announce that it has been named a finalist in the 2017 Moxie Award.
“I want to congratulate our team for enabling us to be recognized as among the boldest and most innovative organizations in the D.C. metro community,” Alan Richardson said.
Finalists were recently announced by Katie Jordan, the 2017 Moxie Award executive chairwoman.
“We received an unprecedented number of entries,” Jordan said. “We look forward to revealing the winners the 2017 Moxie Award celebration on Nov. 8 at the Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner.”
A complete list of finalists can be found at https://moxieaward.com.
Potomac Valley Brick recently supported Mattie's Foundation by donating the brick installation at the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park & Peace Garden in Rockville.
The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation is a volunteer-based not-for-profit organization, created in 2005 to continue the work of the late teen poet and peace activist, Mattie J.T. Stepanek. During Mattie’s ‘almost 14 years’ of life, he penned seven NY Times Bestselling books of “Heartsongs” poetry and “Just Peace” essays, and served as an ambassador for many peace- and disability-related organizations. Mattie died in 2004 due to complications of a rare neuromuscular disease.
The mission of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation is to continue spreading Mattie’s message of hope and peace by providing access to the message, promoting understanding of the message, and motivating people to action in sharing the message. Mattie’s Foundation offers educational and recreational programs, activities, and resources that support an understanding of peace for individuals and for our world, and that encourage peacemaking as a deliberate choice. We celebrate Mattie’s belief that “We have, we are, a mosaic of gifts, to nurture, to offer, to accept.” Like Mattie, we believe that “Peace is for all people!” and that “Peace is possible!”