Hardly surprising for a material so widely used, aluminium's benefits for industrial use are virtually limitless. Lightweight, durable, naturally resilient to weather and with a near-infinite lifespan, we've covered much of the finer points of this fine metal on the Austen Knapman blog many times. Whilst we've mentioned why these factors make it an ideal economic and architectural choice on our blog several times in the past, this time we're going to explain just why aluminium leads the way in green architecture, and just how far its environmental possibilities can reach.
Recycling: why Aluminium pays for itself
One of the biggest issues that has for a long time plagued the building industry is the amount of waste materials that go to landfill sites. A serious problem for both the economy and environment, the recovery of aluminium via recycling has become a major staple of the metal's industry. Theoretically, it's possible to recycle 100% of aluminium without any loss of its natural qualities, and in practice this is usually done using up to 95% less energy than in the original production process.
Whilst the bulk of recycled scrap aluminium is manufactured back into aluminium cans, almost all aluminium used in construction is recycled. This allows the energy expended in order to create the primary aluminium to be conserved, and since the recycling does not transmute the element, aluminium can be recycled ad nauseam and still used in any area of construction where new aluminium might have been needed.
Energy Balance Potential in Construction
Thanks to its high strength-to-weight ratio, aluminium can be used by architects to meet the exact performance specifications of their building whilst keeping expenditure on foundations to a minimum. Aluminium is so light in fact that it can significantly cut down the energy spent on transport, on-site handling and construction; with this efficient level of production having huge benefits on the environment in the long term.
Long lasting and Sustainable Buildings
Being weather proof, corrosion-resistant and basically immune to any harmful effects of UV rays, aluminium is a solid environmental option both in the here and now and for the future. Aluminium's use in building substructure, cladding for rain screen panels and elsewhere results in minimum maintenance over time, regardless of weather conditions.
The way aluminium affects a buildings energy consumption and usage is also worth mentioning. Aluminium shading devices can reduce the need for air conditioning in the summer, whilst buildings such as the Sugar City Silos in the Netherlands have aluminium window and curtain wall frames that are remarkably narrow, maximizing solar gains for their outer dimensions.
Prime Usage in Solar Panels
Speaking of solar gains, aluminium's abundance and ability to absorb ultra-violet light effectively makes it the key material of choice for cost effective photovoltaic panels and light management. More and more buildings in China, America and elsewhere are practically lining their outer walls and windows with solar panels to help cut down energy on artificial lighting and heating. The high reflectivity of the metal lets it double as a shading device to reduce the use of air conditioning in the summer, thus experts in holistic architecture are combining 'aluminium curtain walling systems' with careful plant management to enhance its effectiveness, and bring CO2
emissions down to a minimum.