Architecture students learn basics of bricking

Abby Fisher

Bob Belden, president of the Belden Brick Company in Sugarcreek, gives a tour to Kent State architecture students. ABBY FISHER | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Steve Schirra

Laying bricks is only half the work of construction.

Bricks that will be turned into a wall or stairwell go through a rigorous creation process before they even arrive at a construction site. And that’s why architecture professor David Hughes wants his students to see how materials are manufactured.

Hughes is adamant about new ways of learning. Every year, he takes his third-year Methods and Materials class to Belden Brick Company in Sugarcreek for some hands-on experience.

“Once they graduate, students will need to know how materials will perform in a building – these things aren’t just bought from a store,” he said.

Students in the class study wood, clay and concrete masonry along with other natural materials.

Approximately 80 students in two classes went on the trip and were given a full tour of the factory.

The factory, which has been open for more than 100 years, employs about 500 workers, said Bob Belden, president of the company.

The factory imports its materials from 23 mines in the area. At the end of this year,

Belden Brick Co. will have produced more than 72 million bricks.

Before they are sent into the kiln, bricks with a fine grain are either left with a smooth face or given more texture and are left to dry for several days.

“This slow-drying process accounts for some of the differences in color — and it gets most of the moisture out of the brick,” Belden said.

The tunnel kiln fires bricks at an even rate and runs seven days a week at a constant 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Belden said the tunnel kiln can be heated up or introduce smoke — called flashing – to give the bricks a different color.

After the bricks come out of the kiln, they are hand-sorted into like colors.

“There are just some jobs that robots and machines can’t do,” Belden said. “We still rely a lot on humans.”

Architecture major Audra Jervey said she hopes the tour will make the class more interesting.

“The class is kind of dull,” she said, “but this was more hands-on and we got to learn about the different materials.”

Contact ROTC and College of Architecture and Environmental Design reporter Abby Fisher [email protected].