Aluminium façade cladding: when it is preferred over steel

Aluminium façade cladding: when it is preferred over steel

Visit any major city and invariably, you will come across an office or apartment block that is clad in metal. For decades, designers have embraced metal cladding for its flexibility and finish. Its popularity is mainly due to its incredible versatility, both avant-garde and off-the-shelf.

Anodised aluminium façade cladding is particularly desirable for both enveloping a façade or roof and there are several distinct reasons why the material is preferable to steel.


Anodised aluminium’s light weight has many key benefits

An overriding reason for anodised aluminium’s preference for cladding buildings as opposed to steel is that it is considerably lighter. Its light weight has several key advantages. The most striking of these is that shipping and transporting costs to a job site or manufacturing facility are greatly reduced, which has a knock-on effect of being more sustainable. Due to aluminium’s lightness, less trips need to be made as greater loads can be transported at any one time.

Anodised aluminium’s lightness also means that the material is easier to work with and mount onto a building façade.Given that anodised aluminium possesses an excellent strength-to-weight ratio, this results in several benefits. Among them, one of the main advantages is that aluminium façade attachment systems can be less bulky than those needed for steel panels. A reduction in a supporting structure for the anodised aluminium panels also reduces overall costs. Whereas, to clad a façade in steel requires greater investment. Given that steel is a heavier material, it requires a stronger support structure to hold the steel panels in place adding to the costs.

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The aesthetics of aluminium in façade cladding

An anodised aluminium façade cladding is a sight to behold. Many building facades will be clad with anodised aluminium panels of a metallic appearance that constantly interacts with the changing natural light. But like steel, anodised aluminium can also be coloured with different nuances and different visual effects can be achieved, such as perforating the material or 3D textures. The process used to achieve these aesthetic finishes is often different. Colouring steel is usually done using a more traditional batch process or by paintings. Whereas raw anodised aluminium is pulled through a series of tanks that clean, anodise, colour, and seal the material in one continuous movement. This process is more controlled, and results in greater colour consistency and surface homogeneity.


Anti-corrosive qualities

Aluminium façade cladding is preferred over steel as it has excellent corrosion resistance. Even in its natural state, aluminium does not corrode in the same way as iron or steel. Its natural oxide layer resists corrosion. When aluminium is anodised, it will never rust or weather, which makes it an attractive choice for cladding buildings. There is also no risk of fading or chalking.


Aluminium can be recycled again and again

One of the key advantages of aluminium over steel is that it can be recycled repeatedly through simple re-melting with minimal loss on each cycle. In Europe, more than 30% of aluminium consumption uses recycled aluminium and over 90% of the aluminium used in buildings is recycled at the end of a building’s life. The recycling process requires only 5% of the energy needed to produce primary aluminium. This is a significant contribution to environmental sustainability.

All these factors add up to make aluminium a preferable material than steel and is ideally placed for cladding building façade and roofs. Aluminium is a highly versatile and durable material that is also extremely malleable. Due to its great flexibility, aluminium can clad difficult junctions or when used in standing seam applications, can be rolled out to clad a whole roof, such as a stadium.

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