Feb 15, 2022 11:00:00 AM | 5 Min Read

5 Ways Aluminum Helps Build Greener Buildings

Posted By Reynaers Aluminium
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5 Ways Aluminum Helps Build Greener Buildings

Zero energy building, or net-zero energy building, is a design concept in which a building produces as much energy as it uses — ultimately making a “net-zero” contribution to energy consumption. These structures are not necessarily self-sustaining, but they can produce their own energy through renewable sources like solar panels.

While producing energy is an essential aspect of a zero energy building, reducing the building’s overall energy consumption is another key to creating that net-zero energy contribution. Solar panels and other sources of energy production are considered active strategies in green building, while processes and materials that improve energy efficiency are passive strategies.

Two common passive strategies impact lighting and energy loss. Leveraging natural light during daylight hours reduces energy consumption, and ensuring an air-tight seal around windows and doors prevents excess energy loss used in heating or cooling.

Beyond reducing the energy needs of a building once it’s in use, using materials that are sustainable in their sourcing, are recycled, or long-lasting reduces the overall energy consumption of the structure. Materials still have to be sourced, manufactured, and shipped to the building site. Green building strategies take these aspects into account as well.

Aluminum offers a green advantage in a variety of these categories. Read on to see how aluminum helps build green buildings:

Strength-to-Weight Ratio

Aluminum offers a greater strength-to-weight ratio than steel. While providing a similar strength, aluminum weighs 65% less than steel. Fuel consumption to transport aluminum to the building site is much lower without compromising on the structure’s overall strength. Additionally, fewer materials may be necessary to support lighter aluminum components versus steel counterparts, and buildings using aluminum weigh less overall than those built with steel.

Resistance to Corrosion & Recyclability

Aluminum is strong, which makes it an excellent building material, but why should you consider it over other materials from a sustainability perspective? In addition to its physical properties, aluminum is one of the most recycled materials on the planet. 75% of aluminum the U.S. has mined is still in use today. Additionally, recycled aluminum saves around 90% of the energy required to mine and process new aluminum.

One of the reasons aluminum is so recyclable? Unlike steel and many other metals, aluminum is highly resistant to corrosion. It won’t rust, and it holds up to extreme weather conditions. These properties mean that aluminum pieces in a home or building will last longer, causing fewer needs for replacement and repair. And when replacement does need to happen, the material can often be recycled into another aluminum product versus being discarded.

Flexibility

Aluminum has uses throughout a building as structural or aesthetic components. Roofing, window frames, doors, siding, fencing, and even gutters, soffits, and fascia can be made of aluminum. In the case of a zero energy building, how aluminum is used throughout a structure determines its ability to reduce energy consumption.

Because of its versatility throughout a building, aluminum presents an opportunity for a structure to be made of more recycled material.

See how Reynaers Aluminum leverages the flexibility of aluminum in our designs.

Reflective Properties

Reflective properties are an essential aspect of green buildings. Reflecting light energy versus absorbing it reduces the energy needed to cool the building, which is helpful in warmer climates where air conditioning needs are highest. Aluminum reflects more than 90% of solar energy directed at it. Depending on the orientation of the building and where aluminum is used, there is potential for significant energy savings.

Production Innovations

It’s no secret that mining and refining operations for raw materials come at a high cost to the environment. Refining bauxite ore into aluminum is an intense process, as aluminum does not occur naturally in the earth’s crust. However, the aluminum industry is constantly working to reduce its impact, including initiatives to regrow cleared trees and restore the natural habitat when mining is finished.

The aluminum industry cut its carbon footprint in half over the last 30 years through this type of work. This includes the production of primary aluminum, which lowered its carbon footprint by 49%, and processes to recycle aluminum, which saw a 60% drop in carbon footprint since 1991. When you’re using aluminum in your building designs, it means supporting an industry that is mindful of its practices and continually working to improve its processes.

Aluminum: For Beautifully Green Buildings

Aluminum is an extremely versatile building product that offers superior quality along with its host of sustainable features. When used strategically, aluminum products are critical to the passive energy strategies for zero energy buildings.

At Reynaers, our products leverage aluminum frames and components while offering unique design features that introduce more natural light into homes and buildings. We’ve also designed many of our systems to minimize energy loss in the home, and some products, like our MasterLine 10 windows, include a Passive House certificate for energy conservation.

Learn more about our revolutionary home and commercial building products

Topics: Sustainability, Architect, Industry Trends

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