Aluminum has been used in building architecture and construction since the 1920s. Why aluminum’s continued to be so useful is because of how strong, reliable, and consistent its performance is as well as the attractiveness and adaptability of its aesthetic. Aluminum can be found in some of the world’s most impressive architectural structures, from New York’s Empire State Building to various iconic post-war commercial constructions across North America.
As an architectural material, aluminum is viewed today as one of the most energy-efficient construction materials there is. It is not uncommon to see the recycled content in aluminum architecture materials to be as high as 85 percent. Aluminum has been a key element of architectural construction projects qualifying for green building status, achieving the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) standard.
Aluminum is regularly used in architecture for various other reasons as well. Aluminum generally requires no painting, maintenance is minimal, and the material is corrosion-resistant. Design depending, aluminum can also be used to insulate as well as to allow light and air into spaces. Aluminum’s light in weight as well and is regularly paired with large glass structures and solar panels to assist in their installation.
Beyond all this, aluminum’s flexible in appearance so much so that it can be manipulated to reflect almost any aesthetic. From an architecture standpoint, this means being able to give a look at something while using a stronger and/or less expensive material as an alternative. For example, in 1994, the Empire State Building chose aluminum to replace its over 5,000 window frames which were originally built with steel. The aluminum here was given the aesthetic of the original steel frames down to the paint colour and everything. This is far from the only restoration wherein aluminum was used to duplicate or maintain a certain look.
Aluminum in architecture brings with it a high level of performance wherein it will serve a dual purpose in look and function. Aluminum can provide decades of use, is less expensive than its counterparts like steel, and is widely available. Today, you can use aluminum used architecturally across a wide variety of projects including roofing, flashing, wall panels, skyscrapers, tower structures, elevators, ornamental trims, and more.