A Material for the future

The Advantages of Aluminium

Aluminium is the most widely-used material for meeting architects’ performance requirements when designing curtain walling and non-standard systems. The material adapts well to all types of architecture and allows a wide variety of shapes and forms; windows and spans. The inherent qualities of aluminium, its infinite recyclability, strength and lightness, durability and low maintenance qualities mean it is one of the most
sustainable building materials.

A Sustainable Building Material

Aluminium allows 15 to 47 per cent more light compared with other materials, and the thermal and acoustic properties of aluminium systems are continually improving to meet the most demanding architectural specifications. It is also:

  • Abundant.  Aluminium is the earth’s third most abundant element after oxygen and silicium (before iron).
  • Health.  Aluminium does not emit dust, vapour, or particles and is not toxic to touch.
  • Low maintenance.  Given its durability and resistance due to surface treatments, aluminium structures need only regular cleaning with neutral detergents followed by rinsing with water.
  • Non-flammable. Aluminium is non-flammable and reaches its point of fusion in case of fire at about 650°C and gives off no flammable gas or vapour.

How Aluminium is Reducing Carbon Emissions

The production of primary aluminium from bauxite involves the electrolysis of alumina, a process which uses electricity. The consumption of electricity has a low impact on the greenhouse effect because:

  • Electricity used in the electrolysis of aluminium is more than 50 per cent hydro electric power – a renewable energy source
  • Electricity consumption per tonne of aluminium produced has been reduced by 33 per cent since 1950.

The target of a 55 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2005, during the electrolysis process has also been achieved.

The Aluminium Life Cycle

In order to recycle aluminium, we must first collect the material. Collection rates for aluminium in buildings have been analysed by Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands.  Research into demolition projects in six different European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands and the UK) was carried out and the collected data shows that collection rates are over 92 per cent.

End of Product Life

Recycling is an important factor in the drive to reduce carbon emissions. Recycling requires only 5 per cent of the energy required for the production of primary fusion aluminium, which contributes to the reduction of carbon emissions.