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Aluminum: A Sustainable Structural Choice

May 2013
Sponsored by CST Covers Industries, Inc.

By Celeste Allen Novak, AIA, LEED AP

Continuing Education

Use the following learning objectives to focus your study while reading this month’s Continuing Education article.

Learning Objectives - After reading this article, you will be able to:

  1. Discuss the efficiency of using lightweight, recyclable aluminum in clear-span structures by eliminating secondary structural members.
  2. Compare how aluminum is an efficient, waste reducing alternative to steel in overhead, sloped and vertical applications.
  3. Avoid maintenance and life cycle costs by specifying a product that is durable and resists corrosion.
  4. Explore case studies of geometric structural designs used for lattice and spaceframe aluminum structures that have received green building certifications.
  5. Summarize the commitment by the aluminum industry to improve industry energy consumption, lower emissions, minimize land resource use and maximize sustainability.

Credits: 1.00 HSW

This course was approved by the GBCI for 1 GBCI CE hour(s) for LEED Credential Maintenance.

Lamella geometries allow for the design of very large structures minimizing the amount of material necessary for the forms. The properties of aluminum made this large structure possible as the focal point for the Shanghai Scienceland Museum.

Latticed, tubed, segmented, half-domed, the promise of spatial geometries that emulated nature began well before Buckminster Fuller popularized one of the first geodesic domes, a spaceframe, a half century ago. Today’s architects are continuing to explore geometric forms and are finding that aluminum is a material that meets both structural as well as sustainable goals. “I‘ve never met an architect who doesn’t love geometry,” spoke Grace Ferretti, Manager of Architectural Division of CST Covers when discussing the sustainability of using aluminum for long span structures and spaceframes. Technology and computers are allowing architects freedom to span ever larger areas with more efficient structural components. Virtually any shape or form can be designed using an aluminum structural or spaceframe system. The only limitation is the designer’s imagination. Aluminum is strong, lightweight and a resilient material. It combines strength with flexibility and can flex under loads or spring back from the shock of an impact. Around the world aluminum is becoming the choice for long span structures over steel frames for many reasons including the many environmental benefits of its materials footprint. 

This article will explore the uses of aluminum in long span structures and spaceframes. It will also review the latest research by the Aluminum Association on the sustainability of aluminum from mining to recycling. This industry is committed to improve industry energy consumption, lower emissions, minimize land resource use and maximize sustainability. The projects highlighted in this article include projects that range from the largest Platinum LEED®-NC campus to the newest aluminum solar “trees” to be planted in parking lots as a high tech energy and water collection system.

Sustainability has many aspects and design professionals are working to improve the cost to the environment with better material choices. The international and national aluminum industry is helping this movement by providing research on the sustainability of aluminum from mining to manufacturing. From documenting recycled content to initiating a soon to be released life-cycle analysis the Aluminum industry is becoming a leader in sustainable mining and manufacturing processes.

Photo courtesy CST COVERS


Originally published in April 2012
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