Aluminium is one of the more versatile and popular metals used in the building trades. It is softer than many other metal and is therefore more ductile and malleable. The finish of this material generally will fall in the range of silvery to a dull matt grey, depending on the roughness of the surface.
In today’s newly built homes and commercial buildings we often will find this material in the electrical system, windows, flashings and occasionally as the framing or superstructure where corrosion or weight is an issue. There are a multitude of reasons why this material is such a popular building materials.
Benefits and Advantages of AluminiumStrength Aluminium alloys are very strong. Pure aluminium has a yield strength of 7-11 MPa while aluminium alloys will provide yield strengths in the 200 to 600 MPa range. As a practical comparison, pure aluminium has about one third the density as well as the stiffness of steel. Aluminium has about one-third the density and stiffness of steel and is a good substitute for steel when strength is needed but weight is a concern. Easy to Process It is easy to work with in its raw state. It is compatible with most machining processes, including forging, die casting, lathe and extrusion. It is easily worked into unique and complicated configurations such as the frames for windows and door frames. Non Corrosive In its finished state, aluminium has a naturally non-corrosive surface which is very desirable in environments such as homes that are near the ocean. Green Material It is a green building component. Virgin aluminium is made from bauxite and the refinement process uses a significant amount of energy, typically in the form of electricity. The good news is that it is 100% recyclable and when it is recycled, the energy requirements are reduced by 95%. Maintenance Free In buildings, aluminium requires little or no maintenance. Unlike wood, aluminium surfaces never have to be repainted, stained or treated with preservatives. Cleaning these surfaces is easily done with a brush or pressure washer. Durable Aluminium building components are extremely durable and resistant to weather and wear. Window frames made of it can be configured and filled with materials that help to achieve very high insulative properties as well as creating excellent acoustic barriers. Light Weight Doors and windows made from aluminium are stronger as well as lighter than most wood or PVC frames. This is even more important in larger structures such as apartment buildings and office towers, where weight reduction without sacrificing strength is a key consideration. Unique Properties Some of aluminium’s physical properties are unique and often very desirable in certain applications. it is non-magnetic, unlike steel or copper. It is often used as an alternative to wood because it does not easily ignite when exposed to flame. It also reflects over 90% of light as well as radiation or infra-red light. Electrical Properties In electrical applications, aluminium is often used instead of copper wiring. It has 59% of the conductivity of copper but is only 30% of copper’s density. aluminium wiring is cheaper than copper and does not transfer heat as readily as copper does.
Applications of Aluminium
While the building and construction industry is a heavy consumer of aluminium products, this material has become pervasively present in almost every part of our daily lives. Aerospace, transportation, and many parts of our consumer economy depend on this material to provide the population with affordable and safe products.
Some of the applications we see or use on a daily basis include:
- Food handling – aluminium foil and cooking bags are probably in use in kitchens and restaurants throughout the world. The flexibility, high coefficient of heat transfer and low cost make it a favourite of chefs and homemakers.
- Aerospace industry is a huge consumer of aluminium for the outer skins and superstructure of most commercial airliners. This industry can trace its success to the huge increase in demand for aluminium during World War II when the need for military airplanes that were fast and light caused governments to subsidize the fledgling industry.
- Transportation is another area where the strength and weight characteristics of aluminium are driving heavy demand. Trucks and other heavy equipment can increase their mileage, reduce operating costs, and haul heavier loads when pulling trailers that are made from this material.
- Transportation costs of aluminium components for framing and structural components used in highway and bridge building can be significantly reduced when these products are substituted for steel and other heavier materials. In many cases, objects like road signs, light poles, and overhead monitors can be erected or placed by hand instead of with machinery and hoists that are needed for heavier objects.