Aluminum is the building material of the modern world and the future, as its use is both convenient and more environmentally friendly than other metals commonly used in construction. Construction Caribbean takes a look at aluminium in sustainable construction.
Aluminum has many properties that make it suitable for construction. It is a lightweight, pliable metal and like other metals commonly used in building, e.g.steel, it can be melted, casted, forged, rolled, welded and machined, with minimal chances of breakage. These properties allow aluminum to be easily assembled. Its flexibility allows for it to be molded into almost any shape, which enables building designers to integrate numerous functions into a single piece of material.
Another advantage of aluminum is that it is aesthetically appealing; it can be used to do almost anything, it can be used across a variety of surface finishes or paints of any colour. It is highly resistant to corrosion on its own due to the protective oxide coating it produces. Paint can also be applied to inhibit the chance of corrosion. It is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity and an excellent reflector of light and heat. Due to this, structures in hotter climates can enjoy a cooler interior, and since the absorption of heat is low, it can be kept a little warmer in colder weather. In this way, it is more suitable for lower temperatures than a material such as steel, which can become more brittle in colder temperatures.
Aluminum can be used in soundproofing as it is an excellent reflector of sound and electromagnetic waves and will not allow internal noise to be let out nor external noise to be let in. Aluminum can be recycled without downgrading its original quality and this requires only 5% of the energy needed to extract aluminum from bauxite. There isn’t a limit on the number of times aluminum can be recycled and thus it can be recycled indefinitely. Aluminum is airtight/impermeable which means that, if you were to use it, for example, to make doors, once closed, neither air, dust, water nor other particles should be able to enter. Aluminum has an exceptional weight to strength ratio, compared to steel; which it is 66% lighter than and less brittle.
Aluminum requires very little to maintain, this is due to its high durability which makes it resistant to corrosion, immune to harmful UV rays, and essentially weather-resistant. Though initially expensive to buy, the cost to use is relatively low since it can stand on its own without maintenance for 25-30 years. It costs less to handle or transport aluminum, compared to steel, due to its lightweight nature and also, due to its strength to weight ratio, allows a large quantity to be transported at a low cost. Aluminum has a high scrap value due to its functionality so it is in high demand. Therefore, it can be resold at a reasonable price. Aluminum is optimal for fire safety during construction since it does not spark. Aluminum does not burn, but regardless aluminum alloys melt at 650°C without releasing harmful gases. Thin aluminum cladding panels meant to be meltable are being used for industrial roofs and external walls to allow heat and smoke to escape and reduce damage. Specially designed, strengthened aluminum frames can be used for cases in which high security is needed.
Aluminum is a much-needed part of the sustainable/green building.
Further reads on sustainable construction.