Why use Aluminum in Construction?
Over three billion pounds of aluminum are used annually in construction in the United States. Much of that total can be found in the aluminum roof systems used on buildings. The intrinsic properties of aluminum contribute greatly to its use in these applications.
For example, aluminum is especially receptive to today’s high-performance, architectural coatings. As a result, the wide variety of factory-applied coatings and colors perform well and stay colorfast. This is a crucial consideration in steep slope roof applications that make the roof a highly visible architectural element. The coatings also help ensure virtually maintenance-free performance and long service life.
Aluminum also provides a high degree of radiant heat reflectivity regardless of whether a roof is low or steep slope. This ability to deflect the sun’s heat-generating rays results in less heat transfer to the interior of the building during the summer which, in turn, lowers energy costs by reducing cooling loads. Reflectivity is becoming increasing important as certain areas of the U.S. enact energy codes dealing with “cool roofing.”
Aluminum has the ability to take on many shapes.
Because it is ductile, aluminum can be formed into a myriad of shapes and profiles. Its uses are by no means limited to flat panels. Consequently, aluminum roofing systems can help create some of the most attractive and functional exteriors on buildings today. In addition, large panels, either flat or formed, require fewer joints, producing fast and economical installation.
Aluminum systems are not meant for use only in new construction. Retrofit applications are viable as well, especially when an owner wishes to change the “image” of a building. Aluminum is ideal for re-roofing older structures, as well as providing contemporary design options for all types of new buildings.
Aluminum is also corrosion-resistant. In fact, it is so corrosion-resistant that in most environments, aluminum requires no protective finishes. In highly corrosive environments such as marine applications, specially formulated aluminum alloys have been developed to enhance the anti-corrosive performance.
And, aluminum is light in weight. Buildings benefit from light but strong materials such as aluminum because less of the building’s structure is expended in supporting its own weight. Buildings in seismically active zones benefit from reduced weight even more since seismic forces are proportional to the weight of the structure.
Many Environmental Benefits
Aluminum construction products offer numerous environmental benefits as well. For example, a survey of aluminum producers in 2003 indicated that the total recycled content of domestically produced, flat rolled products for the construction market was approximately 80-85%. A subsequent survey indicated that on average, nearly half of the recycled content (40-42%) is from post-consumer sources.
recycle loopNot only does the aluminum used in the construction industry contain a high percentage of post-consumer and post-industrial recycled content, but at the end of its long, useful life in a building application, it is 100% recyclable. In addition, aluminum building components can be repeatedly recycled back into similar products with no loss of quality. Our metal roofs are 95% composed of recycled aluminum beverage cans. The recyclability and high recycled content of aluminum make it an ideal material for those looking for credits for the LEED program.
Aluminum is Recylable at End of the Building’s Life
The ability to recycle aluminum building products is also becoming more important as more building owners decide to deconstruct rather then demolish older buildings. Instead of simply going in with a wrecking ball, owners are now much more deliberate about how they take down a building in order to extract as much recyclable material as possible. By doing so, they not only retain the scrap value of a material such as aluminum but also eliminate the environmental impact and cost of dumping it in a landfill.
Aluminum recycling also reduces energy consumption. To produce aluminum from recycled material, for example, requires only 5% of the energy required to produce aluminum from bauxite. In addition, every ton of recycled aluminum saves four tons of bauxite.