Study: Aluminium shown to last longer in buildings

A study, led by renowned architect Prof. Michael Stacey on behalf of the International Aluminium Institute, examined buildings ranging from Cribbs Causeway retail park in Bristol to the FT Printing Works in London and USB Offices, 1 Finsbury Avenue, also in London.

After poring over their findings, the report’s authors are recommending that:
- Coated aluminium used in buildings is now being given warranties of up to 40 years.
- Aluminium used in window frames should be given a service life of 80 years, an upward revision of 40 years 
- Aluminium used internally has an infinite lifespan
- Coated aluminium has also stood the test of time, with powder coatings applied in the 1970s under a 10-year guarantee still performing well to this day.

Will Savage, CEO of ALFED, the trade association that represents the UK aluminium industry, hailed the findings of the report.

“This is really good news for the aluminium sector. We already know the great qualities of this versatile material, which is corrosion resistant, lightweight and fully recyclable, has and to have this independent confirmation of increased longevity is very welcome.

“Companies that have chosen aluminium as a key material in their buildings will undoubtedly be pleasantly surprised to learn that they’re unlikely to require maintenance of aluminium parts for years to come, except regular cleaning,” Mr Savage said.

Carl Tomlinson, of the Aluminium Finishing Association, said: “This report has confirmed our own findings into the life expectancy of powder coatings used on aluminium.

“One iconic example is the British Library in London, which was finished in the early-1990s.”

The report, titled Aluminium and Durability: Towards Sustainable Cities, also looked at how aluminium has been used in buildings over the 100-year period from 1895 to 1986, with the metal first appearing in the Church of St Edmunds in Fenny Bentley in Derbyshire in 1895, almost 120 years ago.

More recently aluminium has been a key material in structures such as the Royal Edinburgh Infirmary, Liverpool’s Paradise Street shopping centre and the Welsh National Assembly building.

It has also been used in famous architecture including the Empire State Building in New York, the Gherkin (St Mary’s Axe) in London and the HongKong and Shanghai Bank HQ in Hong Kong.

Aluminium was discovered in 1808 by Sir Humphrey Davy and has since been widely used in construction, automotive, aerospace and medicine to name but a few applications.

In concluding, the report said: “This research has revealed aluminium-based architecture that is performing well in our towns, cities and rural landscape. The durability of this aluminium architecture should be recognised and celebrated.

“The interim conclusion of this research suggests that well specified and well detailed aluminium architecture should be considered to be very durable and have a very long life expectancy.”