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The Masonry Core

  

No, it’s not a paramilitary group with ties to the Knights Templar. In the early days of colonial America and in post colonial times the masonry core was the masonry structure that was built, generally in the center of the house and it housed the various flues for the wood-burners, brick bake ovens,  the ash dumps which collected ash for soap production, and the smaller fireplaces for a side room or a bedroom.  The house was built around this strong massive structure, and since land was pretty much in abundance you simply built the house as big as you were going to build it around this core.  Back in those days, the core was not seen as eating up the center of the house room-wise, because you used as much timber as you had available to you and you built around it. 

Today, with land sometimes at a premium, the large – sized masonry core that was in early houses would be considered a monstrous consumption of space.  The masonry core provided several great advantages, however.    It retained the warmth of the wood burners or fireplaces long after the fire had gone out.  I know, because I have a masonry structure surrounding my wood burner in the basement (It’s nowhere near being finished), and it stays warm, once heated long after the fire has gone out. 

There is no money in the stimulus package for masonry cores.  That’s probably because they aren’t perceived as green.  They do burn wood or fossile fuels.  (It’s easier to say what isn’t in the stimulus than what is.)  However, in a very important sense masonry is very green:  The materials used are the most used and re-usable materials possible.  I was a mason contractor for almost 30 years.  Old bricks and stone, and even the mortar debris can be used over and over, as long as it is clean.  Old bricks are often used for the inner wythe walls of masonry structures, and the debris makes a good fill for cavities, such as those under a hearth stone.  Efficient wood burners burn the carbons very thoroughly, so they are pretty clean.

 

In today’s energy conscious atmosphere, the new energy efficient features of zero –  clearance wood burners, and even older wood burners should be given a serious look, even if the government isn’t providing a tax write-off per se for the masonry core.  I have heated my entire Cape Cod home on the coldest days with the heat rising from the basement wood burner, and my free standing unit is not even one of the newer models.  Sometimes the furnace barely has to kick in.  The solid masonry chimney that rises through the roof, or soffit and then an additional 2 to 3 feet above any part of the roof within 10 feet gives the home a noticeable grace, a finished look, and generally improves the worth of the home.

 

There’s something more important, though than our home use, something that should have been considered by the people that flung our stimulus together like a fast food with tons of secret sauce.  There is no known height to which reinforced masonry structures can be built.  That was something I was taught when I was studying for my masonry certification test. Now think of the buildings that came down on 9 – 11.  One of the reasons they came down had to do with the design of the buildings.  They were built with a mutually supporting steel unit (sort-of truss) design.  Trusses are strong, but as any fireman will tell you who has gone into a burning building, once one truss is destroyed, look out, the rest of the structure loses its strength. Similarly, weeknesses are magnified  on a skyscraper when just a few individual steel frame units are destroyed.

Conversely, masonry is self supporting.  In other words, you can arch it over structures, around structures, and through structures without losing any strength.  I ponder that if the 2 massive twin towers had been constructed with steel reinforced masonry cores housing the core of the building, the core that contained the elevator shafts, trunk-lines and ventilation shafts of the building, the buildings may have survived, even with the jet fuel pouring down the core.  You see, clay masonry is baked and vitrified at various high heats, and good clay masonry is able to withstand tremendous heats.  The steel reinforcement is achieved in a variety of ways, often by grouting the cores solid with steel rebar in the center of the masonry cavities.

Masonry costs are generally pretty comparable to the time and work that had to be put into steel studding, dry-walling both sides, mudding and taping, or other types of wall finishes.  They are far more fireproof.  For, even though 5/8” drywall passes the same 4 hour fire rating tests as 6” unfinished cement block, it doesn’t pass the second part of the test, the hose test.  This is the part of the ASTM test lifts the wall out of the oven in one piece, and blasts it with a hose of water to simulate the activity of the fire department putting out the fire.  The reason the drywall doesn’t pass the hose test is because at the end of the 4 hours, the drywall is completely incapable of being lifted out of the oven without crumbling – > So next time some smart-ass tells you that 5/8” drywall has the same fire-rating as 6” cement block – you know the full story.

 

Not only is masonry material clean and abundant and have far greater compressive strength than steel – which is what the twin towers could have used on that fateful day, but it retains the energy on one side of it from being transferred to the other side.  In the insulation process, masonry would be known as the resistor.  The ideal insulator is a resistor – insulator – resistor sandwich. 

 

Have you ever seen those science shows where they show you infrared views of  a major city with all of the energy that is being dissipated by buidings?  That’s not efficient, that’s not green.  Those images don’t  even give you a view of the dangerous electromagnetic and radio waves being bled into the city.   Talk about global warming ->  If the government was really interested in arresting global warming –  some of the stimulus package would have gone for retrofitting the outside of large buildings with graceful masonry wraps to compliment the structure.  This would have provided ready work for many people.  These skyscrapers generally have huge foundations, so providing a thin masonry veneer to the outside hung with the latest technology would often not be an issue with regard to the foundation.

 

Green buildings not bleeding heat, light  and other energy into the atmosphere, buildings with cores that have unequalled compressive strength, buildings with cores that can resist high temperatures and the transfer of energy, buildings with lots of workers around them doing something really productive and beneficial for our climate and safety !  It wasn’t thought of, or included in the gluttonous stimulous package though, that will eat our children’s future simply by the interest they’ll be paying to China on the financed debt.  It wasn’t included because – remember – we were in a hurry!  After all ‘Of course it’s a spending bill!’ said Presidet Obama, ‘That’s what a stimulus package is!’ 

Those words will haunt us for many years.

 

I guess it just doesn’t matter what you spend it on, as long as you spend it.  Hears the sadder energy news: what is China doing with all of those interest dollars they are heaping up with the debt they have financed for us?  We’ll, I’ll give you some clues:  They are spending the dollars, ultimately, here in the U.S.  They’re buying stuff here, I understand. Oil rights, coal mines things to do with our energy, and it looks like we may be buying it from them.  No Barack Obama doesn’t want to drill offshore or even in the interior U.S., to appease the environmentalists, but sooner or later, someone will be drilling here, only it won’t be domestic concerns, and someone will be selling us our petroleum products.

The Obama administration wants to ‘Go green’ by promoting hydrogen fuel cells, but the research I have done devoted to both European initiatives and U.S. initiatives indicates that the ‘dirtying of the environment’ necessary to get hydrogen to the pump (these are called well-to-wheel studies), generally indicate that the hydrogen fuel cells are not a great improvement over fossile fuels. 

This is because the major initiatives devoted towards fuel cell technology are not directed at developing the fuel cells that split water in a container in the car into HHO  and then burn the hydrogen in the combustion engine but rather by generating electricity in the vehicle by providing hydrogen at the pump to be split by a fuel cell that takes in Hydrogen and oxygen into an anode side and a diode side, and generate more electricity than was originally funded by the battery.   Apparently, if you are going to use fuel cells for major transportation and industrial needs, stored and delivered hydrogen is the only realistic option.

 

Now, It’s even amusing to find out that both European and American studies indicate that the most feasible energy means for providing and extracting hydrogen is Natural gas.  Isn’t that a fossile fuel?  I’m not sure if that’s only because hydrogen is found with the Natural gas, or also because Natural gas is simply the best choice of energy supply for extracting hydrogen from water.  I have nothing against Natural Gas development.  I’m all for it.  Shell Oil was thwarted from developing U.S. supplies in the Arctic Circle do to actions taken by environmentalists…. a fuel cell roadblock.

 I will have more to say about the fuel cell prospects, but I will say this:  I do believe that what we consider to be green today is not what we will be considering to be green 10 years from now.  Green is a very deceiving buzz word.

 

 

 

 

 


9 Comments

  • I Shed T h i r t y P o u n d s in Under a Month

    Hi, good post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for writing. I will certainly be coming back to your blog. Keep up the good work

  • Scott

    Very kewl. I’ve been planning to build an outdoor twin wood-fired brick oven of recycled masonry. Where can I learn more about masonry cores function, design, history, greening up?

  • John P. Schumake

    There was a marvelous book entitled, “The Forgotten Art of Building and Using a Brick Bake Oven”
    by Richard M. Bacon.
    The book provides an interesting history of the brick bake oven along with detailed descriptions on how to build it. I hope you can find it out there. It will be a good place to start. The Masonry Institute of America and the Brick Instiute of America also have a plethora of information available if you Google them. There are also several magazines called Masonry Magazine and Masonry. They almost always have very good articles on everything from constructing archways to brick ovens. I will tell you, however, please be careful. Work with a trained professional, especially if you ever choose to build an indoor oven or fireplace – monoxide poisoning is a heart stopper.

  • Isabelle Gonzales

    Hydrogen Fuel is very promising, i only hope that we can mass produce soon enough.-,;

  • Gabriel Ellis

    hydrogen fueled vehicles are the best but they are still not widely available.”‘*

  • Lily Walker

    hydrogen fueled vehicles are the best but they are still not widely available.*;.

  • Paige Price

    hydrogen fuel is not yet very practical and cost effective today’*-

  • Anxiety Treatment `

    i think that the best fuel that we can use is Hydrogen, this does not product polluting gases at all*-.

  • Foam Insulations :

    hydrogen fuel is definitely the best way to go, it is 100% non-polluting and reneweable*,~

 




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