Image: Courtyard House Photography Tom Gildon & David Butler

Ibstock, the UK’s largest brickmaker, has further cemented its position as the industry-leader by winning three awards at the 40th annual Brick Developers Association’s (BDA) Awards, which celebrate excellence in design and construction using brick.

This latest success takes Ibstock’s total award wins since 2005 to 77 – more than any other brickmaker. The stunning builds feature bricks from Ibstock’s wide-ranging portfolio of colours, textures, sizes and finishes to achieve a huge variety of aesthetic effects.

Projects using Ibstock bricks picked up the top accolade in three categories, including: Best Individual Housing Development, from Dallas Pierce Quintero for Courtyard House, which showcased a creative application of Staffordshire Blue Umbra Sawtooth and Standard; and Best Large House Builder for Linden Homes by Stride Treglown, which used Audley Red Mixture and Commercial Red to achieve a striking impact.

The distinctive arched pavilion of the Brentwood School Learning Resource Centre in Essex, designed by Cottrell & Vermeulen, won Best Education Building, using brick façades to harmonise with existing buildings using the distinctive Heritage Red Blend.

In addition, Ibstock-Kevington products were also used in Newport Street Gallery, which picked up the Supreme Award. The innovative project used precast lintels and beams, together with CNC cut brickwork, all of which were manufactured by Ibstock-Kevington.

Andrew Halstead-Smith, group marketing manager at Ibstock, commented: “As brick continues to retain its position as the number one construction material of choice, what we are seeing is more innovative and creative applications of brick, which really showcase its tremendous design capabilities.

“Architects, specifiers and contractors are pushing the boundaries when it comes to application to create breath taking designs, which these award-winning projects really demonstrate. We congratulate all those involved.

“The calibre of builds shortlisted at this year’s awards was incredibly high; so to have three projects where Ibstock bricks were used receiving awards, in addition to playing a part in the Supreme Award winning entry, really is testament to the versatility of Ibstock’s wide-range of options.”

A further project which also used Ibstock bricks received the judges’ commendation in the category of Best Education Building, for Merchant Taylors’ School Design Centre designed by Architecture PLB.

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Following the Brick Development Association’s (BDA) Awards which took place last month, the latest edition of ‘Design’ (the inspirational magazine from Ibstock) is showcasing a number of cutting-edge projects using Ibstock bricks, which were shortlisted for the prestigious accolades.

The latest issue, which is available now, also offers a multitude of technical advice and recommendations for creating curved brickwork, and features a number of recent building projects where such techniques have been applied to maximum effect.

The latest issue offers an in-depth look at Incurvo, a private house in Oxfordshire, where the use of radial brickwork has been used to create striking aesthetics. In addition, further projects showcased in the latest edition, include: Cottrell & Vermeulen’s The Bean Learning Resource Centre at the independent Brentwood School in Essex, and Domino houses in North London.

Andrew Halstead-Smith, Group Marketing Manager at Ibstock, comments: “This edition of Design highlights that the construction industry is still incredibly forward-thinking, and is continuing to push the boundaries of modern design, embracing changing trends and styles, and that brick, as the number one construction material, is helping it to do so.

“The projects featured are from both private and public sectors and showcase the ways in which buildings can be set apart by eye-catching aesthetics. We are delighted to have been able to play a part in the creation of such inspirational buildings and to have all the projects featured in this latest edition also recognised at the BDA Awards, only serves as further testament to the powerful results achievable with brick.”

To obtain the latest issue of Design or find out more about the range of bricks available, visit

New statistics released today by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) indicate good news for the building industry.

In the second quarter of 2016, brick deliveries were 10.4% higher than in the first quarter. Brick deliveries in June 2016 are also 7.4% higher than May, the previous month.

These changes are significant and point to the increased demand for bricks in the housing and construction.

The results correlate with recent positive news in the house building industry. 41,222 new homes were built in the UK in Q2, an increase on the same period in 2015 and the highest number of houses built since Q4 of 2007.

Andrew Eagles, CEO of the Brick Development Association (BDA) says “This is encouraging. Manufacturers have geared up supply to meet demand. It is heartening to see an increase in house numbers and increased deliveries of brick to help get those homes built with quality durable materials.

“We welcome the recent House of Lords report pointing to the need for more homes and greater diversity of mechanisms to get more homes built, and hope this leads to more action and further rises in home building.”

Ibstock, the UK’s largest brick maker, has launched the latest edition of its Ibstock-Kevington Special Shapes brochure, exhibiting its extensive range of specially designed bricks and solutions for creating stand-out designs and speeding up builds every day.


The magazine showcases the popular Ibstock-Kevington range of products for delivering stunning architectural visual effects and a ‘special’ edge to projects from either manufactured or cut and bonded brick shapes. Readers of the brochure will discover the endless design possibilities achievable through a combination of technical information and diagrams, and high resolution photography.

The products displayed in the new brochure include bullnose bricks; used for creating vertical and horizontal curves, spiral bricks; a completely unique design which uses a simple shape to create a complex and intricate finished result and Caplock; a capping and coping system that resists vandalism and improves the durability of the wall.

Andrew Halstead-Smith, Group Marketing Manager at Ibstock, says: “The new Special Shapes brochure not only makes the selection process easy, but delivers real design inspiration to support creativity across the industry. While brick has, for centuries, provided the traditional cladding for the UK’s buildings, its ability to move with the times and embrace changing trends and styles means it remains the construction material of choice. This brochure allows tradespeople to make informed decisions on how to meet the aesthetic and structural requirements of a building.

“The new brochure also outlines the CAD services available from Ibstock to ensure products fit bespoke specifications from customers.”

Available free of charge, the 2016 Special Shapes brochure can be ordered through the Ibstock Samples and Literature Hotline on 0844 800 4578 or visit the website at

The Brick Development Association, the body that represents the clay brick and paver industries in the United Kingdom, has responded to recent comment about the state of the construction industry. The growth in the brick deliveries over the last month follows extensive work manufacturers have undertaken over the last year.

Figures released today from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and Department for Business Innovation and Skills show that brick deliveries in May increased by 3.1% on the same month the previous year. Additionally, the month on month change shows a 0.6% increase in May 2016, following a 1.5% increase in April 2016 on the same basis.

Andrew Eagles, CEO of the Brick Development Association said “There is currently some uncertainty at central government. All major parties though support a drive to significantly increase home building numbers. Osborne’s move away from austerity and the likely interest rate drop are likely to improve the construction environment.

“It is important to look at statistics. There has been a significant increase in brick production over the last twelve months and this is confirmed by the latest ONS statistics.

“It is heartening to see how quickly and how dramatically the sector has risen to meet demand [and in particular contribute to the much needed rise in housebuilding.”

This recognition only adds to the current emphasis on the need for housing. Housing minister Brandon Lewis has promised to build 1m homes by 2020, to bridge the gap in recent years between houses built and houses required, which should lead to further growth within the brick industry.

“The increase of brick deliveries throughout May is a positive contribution to the revitalisation of the housebuilding sector”, Eagles added. “When the volume of new housebuilding starts to grow closer to the 200,000 a year target the brick industry will satisfy demand.”

We are all familiar with the fairy tale of the three little pigs; a moral-laden fable about three pigs that construct three houses from different materials. The big bad wolf blows down the first two pigs’ houses, made of straw and sticks respectively, but is unable to destroy the third pig’s house, made of bricks. The story has been told and retold for hundreds of years. However, I think that things have changed…

There have been a multitude of innovations in modern construction techniques of late, so I have decided to take a second look at how affective the pigs’ methods actually were; would the straw and stick homes still fall to huffing and puffing today?

Straw house

With shortages of materials, lack of skills, an ever increasing population and subsequent carbon footprint, there is understandably an enormous demand for a housing solution that won’t cost the earth, both financially and environmentally.

Straw bale construction is one such material that could help achieve this goal. Indeed, a house built from straw goes one step further than helping to alleviate a housing crisis – it can even help the very occupants within that house keep the modern enemy of fuel poverty at bay. Straw bale buildings are so efficiently insulated that they require very little heating, even in the dead of winter.

Where timescales are an issue, straw bale building can also prove to be a worthwhile consideration. Last year saw the first ever straw bale houses hit the market in Bristol. The housing development consisted of seven homes that were erected on site in just nine days, thanks to their precision factory-made panels which slot together perfectly. This speedy turnaround adds to their affordability, of course.

Social Landlord Martin Connolly, responsible for the development, commented on the Bristol homes: “We got into straw bale housing to explore how we could make housing more affordable. What was behind it was concern about homelessness and the environment.”

“In the first instance, we wanted to achieve natural non-toxic house building which sequesters carbon. Hugely insulated and air-tight, the homes produce virtually all the energy they need to run. We are installing rain water harvesting to cut down water and sewage bills, and LED lights, solar panels and an air-source heat pump to reduce light and heating costs. Bath University research shows the running costs can be reduced by as much as 90%. And, as volume of sales increase, we can strive to make the house purchase price even more affordable.”

So, was the first little piggy really that foolish to choose straw over other available materials? Let’s consider the facts; just shy of 4m tonnes straw is produced as a by-product each year by British agriculture. It only takes around 7 tonnes of straw to build a three-bedroom house similar to the Bristol developments. This means that theoretically it would be possible to grow enough straw to build more than half a million new homes each year using straw grown exclusively in British fields. Perhaps not so foolish!?

Stick house

Was the second piggy wrong to build his house from wood? I think absolutely not. Perhaps, considering that the structure fell merely at the exhaling of a wolf, it is his construction skills (or lack thereof) that should be questioned rather than his choice of material. Timber frame buildings are inherently strong, durable and sustainable. Readily available and relatively low in cost, structural timber offers a competitive advantage over many other materials.

Studies suggest that by moving more towards offsite construction techniques, the reputation of the construction industry will improve in the eyes of the younger generation, who above all have a keen interest in innovation, technology and environmental issues. This means that a career within the sector would become a more viable and attractive option, which in turn will help to alleviate the chronic skills shortage currently blighting the industry. Even the second piggy could brush up on his abilities by enrolling in an apprenticeship scheme.

The government report, Construction 2025, highlighted that the poor public image of construction was having a detrimental effect on companies’ abilities to recruit and retain the best talent. The cleaner, safer and more professional setting of a modular construction factory could definitely help attract prospective apprentices and graduates into this relatively new and exciting area of our industry.

Timber is the perfect choice for specifiers who want a precision engineered material that is both cost effective AND sustainable. Structural timber is a low-carbon alternative that offers high structural strength, airtight construction and a traceable supply chain. Therefore it is the perfect choice of material for little piggies with a passion for sustainability and style.

Brick house

Although the hero of the fairy tale is the pig that chose brick above all other materials, the truth of the matter is that there are pro’s and con’s to every material and brick is no exception. Brick homes require very little maintenance and never require painting, caulking or staining. However, this does have a trade-off. Changing the appearance of a brick exterior can be somewhat difficult and expensive.

Homes made of brick are highly energy efficient and therefore remain cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Whilst this in itself is good for the environment, there are caveats and sadly the manufacturing process of bricks almost nullifies this benefit. The manufacturing processes used to create building materials such as cement and bricks are currently accountable for roughly 12% of all emissions of carbon dioxide in the world.

Brick manufacturing especially is very energy-intensive due to the kilns that are used requiring firing for up to three days in order for the bricks within to become hard and strong. Brick kilns operate at about 1100°C and are often kept hot even when not in use. This immense heat is generated using fossil fuels, which emit significant CO2 when combusted.

Houses constructed using brick are durable, energy efficient, highly fire-resistant and low maintenance. This means that they tend to have a higher resale value than their timber beam counterparts. Homeowner insurance is also a lot lower for these very reasons. So whilst savings can be made in the long term, the initial outlay will be much higher if using brick in your project.

Bricks are much more expensive as a building material than timber or straw. Also, whilst largely low maintenance for the most part, when repairs do need to be made they can be difficult, time consuming, highly invasive and expensive. This renders brick a non-cost-effective option for many home builders, regardless of savings that will be made at a later date.


It is clear to see that each method of construction has both benefits and draw backs. This means that no one method is a perfect solution to meet 21st century housebuilding demands. If the housing crisis, combined with materials shortages and the skills gap are the modern day “wolf at the door”, then it is only through a multifaceted approach that utilises all of the tools and knowledge in our arsenal that we can succeed and thrive as an industry. It’s impossible to tell which material will come up trumps in the end – but one thing we can all agree on is that modular technologies, offsite methods and alternative material usage will play increasingly larger roles in construction as we go forward as an industry. Expect to see a lot more on the topic!

So in summary, does a fairy tale that was first committed to print in the 1840’s still offer worthy advice to the wise and considerate specifier who wishes to keep the wolves at bay? I say “no, no, not by the hair on my chinny chin chin!”

The UK’s largest brick maker, Ibstock has opened a new state-of-the-art cutting centre for its Chesterton brick works as part of its ongoing investment programme.

The investment has resulted in doubling of production at the site, the installation of the fastest slipsaw in the UK – capable of processing 8,000 bricks a day – and increased staff numbers.

Ibstock’s Chesterton site specialises in custom made brick shapes from the Ibstock-Kevington range of special shapes and prefabricated solutions including Faststack, Fastwall, arches and underslung soffits.

Iain Durrant, operations director at Ibstock-Kevington, says: “Our Chesterton factory is well placed to support the supply of our specials range across the UK.  We know many construction professionals are seeking ways to speed-up build timescales and the investment is designed to support our range of products and solutions which can help to do just that.

“Our site at Chesterton is one of the most efficient factories of its type in the world and the new cutting centre adds to what it offers to meet demand across construction.”

Ibstock is also investing £55 million in its site in Ibstock, Leicestershire.  The new state-of-the-art production facility is set to boost manufacture by an additional 100 million bricks per year – enough to build around 15,000 new houses.

For more information, visit or call 0844 800 4575.

The largest manufacturer of specialist bricks, Michelmersh have announced that there has been a fall in commercial activity due to a reducing demand for bricks.

Chief Executive of Michelmersh, Martin Warner blames delays caused by planning for lower brick sales, saying that the general election in May and subsequent stamp duty increases for expensive homes has held up many projects and hampered production within the sector.

Martin said “Construction is down. We have seen it over the summer. If you talk to developers, one of the biggest problems is planning. The planning process is getting worse and worse rather than better.”

The last couple of years have seen several contributing factors that have had an impact on the brick industry as a whole; severe brick shortages, an increasing skills gap and a boom in house building resulted in stockpiling by many building firms in order to complete their projects.

Whilst the materials shortage and lack of skilled workers has played its part in slowing or stopping government housebuilding proposals, Martin says that he feels that planning is now a far greater issue.

The Conservatives have promised to loosen planning requirements in the near future in a bid to meet a housing target that aims to deliver 200,000 first time buyer houses for sale each year. Last month’s party conference saw PM David Cameron pledge to scrap rules which require developers to build affordable homes for rent.

Warner mentioned that although the cost of bricks has risen, they are still reasonably priced and the price hike should not prove to be an issue for building firms. He said “We price ahead of the game and bricks are still very cheap in the grand scheme of things. The average price of a brick is 32p which is less than the price of a Mars bar.”