Travels | Austin

April 25, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

My time here at Texas Tech so far has been quite busy, between my studio, and my other classes, I certainly keep busy. For the first time in my college career, I had two field trips by two completely separate classes. The first was White Sands, as some of you have seen, and the second was to Austin, to visit a few masonry factories to see how these materials are produced.

Day One - Elgin Butler

Our first stop was Elgin Butler, a brick manufacturing plant that has been around since the late 1800's. They started by creating solid brick for homes, and developed the structural clay block, the precursor to CMU block (Cinder Block). Today, their specialty has been a glazed block unit, where they cover the face of the blocks with a ceramic glazing of various colors for all kinds of projects, like subway tunnels, schools and other commercial buildings. Their approach was much more easygoing, because their production level was not a massive scale. They are more of a craft, a specialty where quality exceeds quantity. Walking their site was very cool, especially when they brought us around to their original kiln they used to fire the bricks. (which is my cover photo for this post)

Elgin Butler    Elgin Butler    Elgin Butler

Day One - ACME Brick

Later that day, we came to see ACME Brick, the polar opposite of Elgin Butler. Where Elgin was focused on a artistic, handmade type brick, ACME focuses on mass production on a large scale. Now, I'm not talking badly about ACME or Elgin Butler, I'm just stating what I saw. ACME focuses on providing brick for homes all over the country, and with house building continuing to rise, the need for brick is high. ACME creates one product, but has many different variations and styles. What stood out with their plant was their computerized robot plant, where machines produce, handle, and package the brick. People are only used in the robot plant to supervise the machines and repair/maintenance when necessary.

     

 

Day Two - Featherlite Building Products

The next day, we visited Featherlite in Round Rock, just north of Austin. This plant, a subsidiary of ACME Brick, focuses in the production of CMU block and concrete based masonry. The plant was very similar in scale and production of the CMU, but instead of only robots, they were a combination of machine and human handling.

     

Day Two - Texas Quarries

The final stop on our trip was to the Texas Quarries, where they extracted and cut down natural stone for building projects. This location was by far the most exciting part of the trip for me. Seeing natural stone in such large amounts brought out the kid in me. They even had souvenirs for us, in cut limestone in the shape of Texas. It was a lot of fun to see how they used large water saws to cut down the stone into large slabs, which got cut further down for building construction. The final place on the tour was the stone cutting, where a few of us were allowed to use the chisels to cut stone.

        

This trip was a very interesting one, in that I got to see how the products we request constantly in the office, were made. I have a greater appreciation of masonry building products and what they are capable of in regards to designing buildings. 


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