ALUMINIUM IN CONSTRUCTION

- Jun 18, 2019-

Source: aluminiumleader.com

of all aluminum produced worldwide 

is used in construction 


Imagine that you have a light, but strong metal, which is not prone to corrosion, which is non-toxic and durable, and which can be given virtually any desired shape. Aluminium is a tool for unlimited creativity in the hands of the architect, making it possible to create structures that cannot be made from wood, plastic, or steel.


That is why it is so commonly used in modern construction.


At the beginning of the last century, Aluminium was virtually unused in civil engineering, as the metal was too expensive and not produced in sufficient volumes. Everything changed in the 1920s, when the electrolysis process reduced the cost of Aluminium by 80%. The metal became extremely popular for finishing roofs and domes and for use in drains and wall panels, as well as for decorative purposes. 


The first building in which Aluminium was widely used in construction was the Empire State Building, the famous New York skyscraper built in 1931 – and the tallest building in the world until 1970. Aluminium was used in all of the building's basic structures and widely used in the interior as well. One of the building's calling cards is the fresco on the lobby ceiling and the walls are made of Aluminium and 23 karat gold


The application of Aluminium in construction and architecture slowed in the 1940s, as the metal was predominantly used for producing planes. It even earned a second name, "winged metal." But as early as the middle of the twentieth century, Aluminium became more and more popular in the construction of high-rise buildings and bridges. Window frames, panels, domed roofs and other wide-span constructions and ornaments were increasingly made with Aluminium. Today, it is used for roofs, siding, translucent panes, window and doorframes, staircases, air conditioning systems, solar protection, heating systems, furniture and many other things. 

The minimum design service life of Aluminium structures is 80 years. Within this timespan, Aluminium can be used in any climatic conditions and does not lose its properties in temperatures ranging between –80 °C and +300 °C. Aluminium structures can be slightly prone to damage in fires, but the metal becomes even stronger at low temperatures. 

For example, heat-insulated Aluminium siding with reflective foil covering protects premises from cold temperatures four times better than 10 cm thick brick facing or 20 cm thick stone masonry. That is why it is widely used in construction in cold areas, like the Northern Urals, Siberia and Yakutia in Russia. 

No less important, or perhaps an even more important quality of Aluminium is its lightness. Thanks to its low specific weight, Aluminium plate constitutes half the weight of steel with the same stiffness. So, the weight of Aluminium structures is one half to two-thirds the weight of steel structures and up to one-seventh the weight of reinforced concrete structures with the same bearing capacity. 

That is why Aluminium is today is used in high-rise buildings and skyscrapers: just imagine how much they would weigh if steel were used, how deep the foundation would have to be and how much more expensive the whole building would be. The light weight of Aluminium drawbridges makes their mechanical components lighter, minimizes counterbalances and in general gives more space for the architect to realise his or her creative vision. In addition, it is simpler, faster and more convenient to work with lightweight structures.
 


Aluminium ingots and billets are used most frequently in civil engineering, being processed into floating ceiling, windows, doors, stairs, wall panels, roof sheets and many more uses. The magnesium-silicon 6ххх alloys in billet form are better extruded, that is why it offers a vast scope for manufacturing the most intricate architectural shapes.



Flat rolled products, hot- and cold-finished, are used for the production of aluminium sheet, wire and slab. 


Aluminium takes to polishing and anodizing very well and can take on any colouring, a quality highly valued by designers. Additionally, anodizing provides intensified anticorrosion protection for the metal. 


Anodizing includes a number of electrochemical processes for metal surface preparation and the formation of a hard, corrosion-proof film of Aluminium oxides. Immediately after anodizing, the artificial colourless film possessing high adsorption capacity may be painted in any colour by immersing parts in a warm bath of colouring agents. 


For example, the ceiling of the Aviamotornaya underground station in Moscow, the buildings of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the State Kremlin Palace feature anodic Aluminium raised plates. These elements look and sparkle like gold from afar. In using this metal, it is not necessary to waste this precious metal for gold anodizing, as the special pigment gives the colour and the oxide film gives the lustre.