Policy Position

Verhelst F., Kjaer E., Jäge, W., Middendorf B., Van Balen K., & Walker P. (2011): Masonry—sustainable, contemporary and durable.

Sep 01, 2023

Anachronism, bold statement or visionary outlook?


Looking around us, we notice the durability of masonry structures. A well-build masonry structure assures a long term sustainable solution by its durability, adaptability and maintain-ability.

However, building practice has changed in the last decennia. Building speed and technology have been major drivers in the main stream construction industry during the last 50 years. In Europe the common market has been created leading to a unified market needing common definitions. Unified product standards have been developed, engineering guidelines being written, this all in order to strive to a market where products can freely circulate. In the sector of restoration of cultural heritage, scientists and conservators have been seeking towards products matching with the longevity requirements of preservation of historic buildings which have been standing out there for hundreds of years. In the last years, we see that the mainstream construction industry also took the step towards sustainability and durability, so those words have become more than buzz words.

In today’s masonry practice, several issues can be observed. Masonry is becoming more and more brittle, stress sensible and slender therefore questioning its traditional image of solid, durable and sustainable building material.

Looking into the masonry structures which have proven durability by survival, a lot of lessons can be learned for future practice. Nowadays only it is evidenced that the complex stress state in the mortar explains the ductile behavior of masonry with lime based mortars. These mortars give an appropriate answer being deformable and elastic. They introduce a reliable adhesion mortar-brick leading to ductile masonry with high flexural strength.

Inspired by these observations, this article discusses the background of this evolution and seeks towards a future of durable, sustainable masonry.


Sustainable, durable, masonry, mortars, standards, Eurocodes, lime

Masonry—sustainable, contemporary and durable.

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