THE APPEAL OF THE HALF-HIGH tantalizing both architects and municipalities.
Michigan’s building market today is tight. Developers and builders strive to build the best and most beautiful building they can, as cost effectively as possible giving the owner true value. Block manufacturers have been perfecting the half-high through-the-wall concrete masonry unit (CMU) to create the aesthetic of brick contextual to many residential and commercial neighborhoods. The look of brick for the cost of block! Half-highs save time and money. Acting both aesthetically and structurally, one material is all that’s needed for the efficient building envelope.
Aesthetically vibrant half-highs, available in 4″,8″,10″, and 12″, resemble the size and scale of traditional brick. Innovation in integral coloring either in solids or blended colors has improved the character of CMU dramatically over the last several years. To an untrained eye, a half high CMU building looks like it was constructed in brick. Many of these blocks carry proprietary names ending with “brick” or “brik”, emphasizing the aesthetic. Often they are acceptable to municipalities which specify brick in their building codes or policies.
Appealing architectural detailing may be achieved by using faces of traditional CMU – split, striated, scored or smooth. Colors are available in a wide range of browns, reds, buffs and earth tones and may be customized for any project. The introduction of synthetic oxides into the coloring process has improved the vibrancy and permanence of the integrally tinted block. High-quality pigments ensure resistance to fading from ultraviolet light. Color blends are produced using divided bins allowing up to four different colors to be added proportionally during the manufacturing process.
Half-high units may also be reinforced to be structural. By using one product that is finished on both the interior and exterior, as well as loadbearing, construction costs are significantly reduced. Fewer materials are needed and less labor is involved. The half-high is lighter in weight and therefore easier to lift and quicker for the mason to lay. Yet, fewer units are laid than traditional modular brick due to the 16″ length of the unit.
Hal-highs accommodate reinforcing steel and grout like full-size CMU. Cores can be insulated for increased R-value, thermal efficiency and energy conservation. Special half-high units may be manufacturing to construct a bond beam. This can also take weeks off the construction schedule by eliminating the wait for structural steel. Single wythe wall costs run approximately $16 per sf. Units can be manufactured with integral water repellent to keep water out. This, along with full bed and head joints, is important as the first line of defense against wind driven rains. It is also recommended that an additional coat of water repellent be applied to the surface of newly constructed walls. This attention at initial construction increases the life expectancy of the building, ensuring cost savings to the owner over the life of the building.
Architectural use of half-high CMU is seeing a surge in the retail and multi-family apartment and condominium markets. Grouted solid, they dampen sound between residential units. Owners are always looking for an upscale residential feel without the price tag. Half-highs are meeting that demand. Design has improved from years past. Today’s designers and specifiers have a strong understanding of the properties of block and its uses, placing movement joints for crack control and improving the lifecycle efficiency of the building. All units exceed ASTM C90 Standard Specification for Loadbearing Concrete Masonry Units for compressive strength and absorption.
As with other CMU products, half-high units are made locally throughout Michigan, which allow them to earn a US Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) point within the Materials and Resources category. If requested with recycled content, they can garner an additional LEED point. And they are readily available to speed up a tight schedule. Customized colors orders can typically be manufactured and delivered to the job site in three to six weeks. A WIN WIN for the local economy, local block manufacturers employ local workers which helps boost the economic condition of the community. Contact us today for more information about Bohemian Brick!