As a metal, Aluminium has a quite a few distinguishing properties that make it the ideal material for a wide range of applications. Especially in the building and construction industry, it is turning out to be the most preferred metal. Designers and architects are increasingly experimenting with the metal for designing unique and innovative structures which are sturdier, lightweight, low on maintenance and more durable than iron and steel and most other construction material. Other exclusive properties of aluminium that is helping it gain its share of application and use in both civic and infrastructure industry, are:
• Aluminium can be recycled easily and indefinitely. Almost all aluminium used in construction is readily recycled with a high scrap recovery value.
• Aluminium is non-corrosive and non-toxic and is therefore, suitable for both outdoor and indoor applications.
• Aluminum resists corrosion by water, snow and moisture without any coating and bits the bill for use both in decorative as well as in main construction.
• Aluminum has the property of reflecting of heat and ultra-violet light. This makes it an ideal material for roofing and cladding applications.
• Light weight and high strength to weight ratio offers immense flexibility in designing of structures and wall cladding.
• Increasing availability of workable high strength aluminium alloys are making it an ideal material for highway fenders, guides, sound barrier walls, crash barriers etc.
• With more efficient forming technologies available, the end products from casting, stamping, forging, bending, extruding, cutting, drilling, punching etc. are getting better in performance and economy of scale.
• Aluminum does not strike sparks nor gets brittle under extreme cold and heat. These are ideal qualities for the construction sector in the present time.
Consumers all around the world are growing ecologically conscious and the trend is to invest on sensible, environmentally sustainable products. Like any other field, the building and construction industry is also confronted with a number of environmental issues like impact on climate change; building materials; and methods of waste disposal and recycling etc. As the real estate sector is growing, consumers as well as builders are growing more concerned about the lifecycle of the building and its fittings. Then there are other factors like design, functionality, space utility, finance and profit and considering all these, aluminium becomes the material of choice in this field.
The construction sector uses 20% of the world’s total aluminium production. The 2009 building and construction market in North America accounted for 2.13 billion pounds of net aluminum shipments. Aluminium was first used in construction more than 100 years ago replacing traditional building materials such as cuprum, bronze, iron, and steel. In 1898, the Saint Gioacchino church was completed in Rome, whose dome was coated with silvery aluminium. The aluminium facade of the Die Zeit news agency building in Vienna became an example of a new architectural style. Such experimental work paved the way for the new and innovative use of the metal and aluminium slowly grew into becoming a symbol of modern design and architecture.
Aluminium is increasingly being used to produce doors and window frames, blinds, ceilings and walls, stairs, roof covers, wall panel’s partitions, HVAC systems and to construct houses and shopping centres, stadiums and bridges. Along with modern architecture, aluminium is also being used in restoring and reconstructing historical buildings and also in constructing large solar panels.
The three factors of ‘Place, weight and time turn out to be important in the use of aluminium in the construction sector. Aluminium could expand the space and size of a building, reduce the weight of any structure and speed up the construction process and add durability. These features not only helped the experimental architects, but also the businessmen and metal manufacturers.
A large number of concrete and steel-reinforced bridge decks and buildings are presently in need of rebuilding due to their age and weak condition. Under such circumstances, aluminum could be a better alternative as a building material. Though Aluminum is more expensive than steel, it could still be cost-effective because it requires less maintenance and no cost for galvanizing, coating and painting. It can be installed conveniently and quickly and the construction becomes environment –friendly, sturdy, durable, and of course, cosmetically more stylish and modern.