Bringing Green to Buildings
One of the fastest growing segments of the building and construction industry is green buildings, and aluminum’s inherent properties and recyclability have positioned the metal as a key sustainability enabler in this global market.
Buildings are major consumers of energy and emitters of greenhouse gases. According to 2012 data from the Environmental Information Administration, buildings account for 74% of all electricity consumed and 38% of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted in the United States alone.
When used in buildings, aluminum can enhance energy efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions, and help achieve green-building standards. For example, intelligent facades incorporating aluminum systems can decrease energy consumption in buildings by up to 50%, according to The International Aluminum Institute.
In the past decade, government standards and regulations, combined with tax rebates and incentives, have influenced the rapid growth of green buildings globally. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certification, which provides third-party verification of a building’s sustainability, has also been a driver for green construction.
In the United States, McGraw-Hill Construction estimates that more than 45% of new non-residential buildings (by value) could be defined as green by 2016. At US$16 billion, green construction in education represents the country’s largest segment opportunity. However, the healthcare sector will have the highest growth rates in green construction for the next few years.
In the European Union, all new buildings owned by public authorities will be near net-zero in energy usage by 2019.
We manufacture a wide array of aluminum doors, framing systems, curtain walls, and windows that help make buildings greener. Four of our products are Cradle to Cradle CertifiedCM Silver under Version 2.1.1 of the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard, which assesses the total impact of a product on human health and the environment.
Aluminum’s sustainable properties for the building and construction market include:
- Recyclability: Aluminum building products can be recycled repeatedly into similar products with no loss of quality, and about 95% of aluminum in buildings is recycled today.
- Reflective surface: Aluminum’s highly reflective surface allows for efficient light management and lower energy consumption, keeping buildings cool in hot climates.
- Light weight: Light yet strong, aluminum reduces transportation costs, vehicle fuel consumption, and related CO2 emissions when being delivered to the construction site.
- Thermal efficiency: Architectural aluminum systems that use advanced thermal technologies can provide superior thermal performance without compromising on structural performance.
The definition of sustainable building products is one that is shifting. As a manufacturer and supplier, we have to deliver on a much broader range of criteria that extends beyond energy efficiency to things like daylighting, acoustical efficiency, and, ultimately, occupant comfort. In addition, increased urbanization and the congregation of large groups of people in public places have created a greater focus on applications that enhance occupant security—those that are strong enough to withstand catastrophic weather and security events.
To accommodate the broader definition of sustainability, our recent innovations include Reynobond aluminum composite material panels with EcoClean coating, OptiQ™ Ultra Thermal Windows, 1630 SS IR Curtain Wall, and the AA®720 FR & AA®100/110 FR Fire Resistant platform. We also have developed state-of-the-art framing and wall systems that are hurricane- and blast-resistant.
Design Futures Council
We actively support the Design Futures Council (DFC) through sponsorship of its research agenda and annual Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design.
The DFC is an interdisciplinary network of design, product, and construction leaders exploring global trends, challenges, and opportunities to advance innovation and shape the future of the industry and environment. The Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design engages industry leaders to re-examine their leadership priorities and establish new action plans to broaden traditional definitions of sustainable design beyond the concerns of individual buildings.
The president of Alcoa Building and Construction Systems is a senior fellow of the DFC, a distinction awarded annually to outstanding individuals who have provided noteworthy leadership to the advancement of design, design solutions, or the design profession.
Alcoa Building & Construction Systems
Product Design and Life Cycle