The latest cost-cutting cladding trend: large-format bricks


When it comes to construction trends in New Zealand lately, it seems that in many cases, bigger is better.

When it comes to construction trends in New Zealand lately, it seems that in many cases, bigger is better.

Large-format versions of many materials have consistently grown in popularity in the last few years – chief among them tiling and timber flooring. But the craze has also crept into new territory, and now some forms of cladding have entered the mix.

At the head of this charge: bricks. While most of us are familiar with the standard-sized bricks used for decades in construction throughout the country, there are some marked benefits to increasing the scale.

ViBlock general manager Jim Hunter says that while larger bricks add a definite aesthetic flair, much of the benefit comes down to function.

“The big idea is simplicity itself,” says Jim. “When larger brick sizes are selected, it takes less time and fewer bricks with less mortar to complete a structure – as such, labour costs for masonry with large brick can be substantially reduced.”

In some cases, using larger bricks can also cut material costs, he says.

“The cost of the brick is actually less than that of the accessories – labour, mortar, sealants, wire and joint reinforcement. Larger bricks means a smaller amount of these accessories are used.”

Meanwhile, larger bricks also means fewer bricks to install – which can help speed the entire process along.

“The real differentiator between big bricks and small bricks: big bricks generally result in faster construction and labour time, less mortar, and ultimately reduced cost.”

famous lakes: the Hawea range, and the Whakatipu range. Both measuring 450mm across, their width is remarkable in contrast to the more standard 220mm wide brick – making them an instant standout and offering a novel aesthetic.

“Lately we’ve seen a lot of designers and architects take advantage of these bigger bricks to play around with the look of each project,” says Jim. “Cladding is often a big part of the first impression a home makes on a visitor, and these larger bricks are a great way to make projects look different and interesting.

“Obviously, it comes down to personal taste; but having something that’s slightly different, while also offering all the benefits that a larger brick offers, is appealing for a lot of people.”

Bricks also have an almost unmatched design versatility, allowing you to make a wide variety of architectural choices for residential or commercial projects. ViBlock’s Hawea and Whakatipu large format bricks are offered in eight different colours, including terracotta, charcoal and cream, and can be textured to suit particular styles – plain, honed or rumbled.

“Being locally produced at Viblock we can work with designers to make a unique design,” says Jim. “We’re finding a lot of clients are opting for bricks on the outside of the house and using the same brick internally with a feature texture such as honed.”

The unique benefits of brick

Masonry blocks like ViBlock’s bricks are also built to last, and require little maintenance after installation. “Masonry block constructions offer solidity, permanence and substance,” says Jim. “You can rest assured that your property will last a lifetime with masonry construction.”

This durability also includes built-in fire and weather resistance. Masonry work resists wind, mould, water damage and many other weather conditions well, and can help keep fires contained and prevent structure loss because of its high tolerance to extreme temperatures.

“In this way, if we compare masonry blocks to wood or other materials – masonry blocks are a clear winner! There is a clear safety advantage as masonry resists flames longer than other building materials.”

Finally, Jim says, brick-clad homes – including those using large-format bricks – are thermally efficient too. “Masonry blocks and bricks have great insulating properties,” says Jim. “This helps with their energy efficiency – keeping buildings warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.”

Bigger bricks possess all of these qualities, Jim says, plus the added value of a unique aesthetic. “We think that large-format bricks will soon be a big part of the market – and certainly our customers so far have been very happy with the product.”