Bringing Green to Buildings
One of the fastest growing segments of the global building and construction industry is green buildings, and aluminum’s inherent properties and recyclability have positioned the metal as a key sustainability enabler in the global market.
Buildings are major consumers of energy and emitters of greenhouse gases. According to the Environmental Information Administration, buildings account for 72% of all electricity consumed and 38% of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted in the United States alone.
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 largest segment opportunity in that country. However, the healthcare sector will have the highest growth rates in green construction for the next few years.
Government regulations will ensure that positive green construction growth trends will continue to occur globally. In the European Union, all new buildings owned by public authorities will be near net-zero in energy usage by 2019. Green standards in China will be implemented on government-invested buildings by 2014.
When used in buildings, aluminum can enhance energy efficiency, reduce carbon 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.
The metal’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. Recycling aluminum only uses 5% of the energy required to make new aluminum ingot. In addition, recycled aluminum creates 95% less greenhouse gas emissions than new aluminum.
- 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.
Alcoa manufactures a wide array of aluminum doors, framing systems, curtain walls, and windows that help make buildings greener. Three of our product lines have earned Cradle to Cradle® Certification, which assesses the total impact of a product on human health and the environment.
Our recent innovations include Reynobond with EcoClean, Versoleil™ SunShade, OptiQ™ Ultra Thermal Windows, and the InLighten® Light Shelf
Reynobond with EcoClean
Reynobond with EcoClean is the first coil-coated architectural panel that helps clean itself and the air around it. The economically viable product reduces maintenance costs and helps with the decomposition of smog and other pollutants, such as dirt and diesel fumes, that cling to building surfaces. In fact, 929 square meters (10,000 square feet) of Reynobond with EcoClean have the approximate air-cleansing power of 80 trees.
Alcoa scientists developed the proprietary process that leverages patented HYDROTECT™ technology from Japanese manufacturer TOTO® to apply the EcoClean titanium dioxide coating to the pre-painted aluminum surface of Reynobond panels. When combined with sunlight, the aluminum panel acts as a catalyst to break down organic pollutants on its surface and in the air around it into harmless matter that is then washed away by rainwater.
One of the first commercial buildings to use Reynobond with EcoClean is an Electronic Recyclers International facility located at the site of a former Alcoa aluminum smelting complex at Badin, North Carolina, USA. Other buildings using the product include the UTC Fire and Security building in Bradenton, Florida, USA, and the Endesa headquarters building in Barcelona, Spain.
When strategically attached to the exterior of a building, Versoleil SunShades minimize the amount of direct sunlight and solar heat gain that enters a building, helping reduce energy use for the building’s cooling system. The sunshade’s blades can be positioned horizontally or vertically to account for the angle of the sun and the building’s orientation.
OptiQ Ultra Thermal Windows
The result of a pioneering partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, OptiQ Ultra Thermal Windows provide enhanced thermal performance. Their unique design allows the windows to maintain thermal continuity, reduce thermal transmission, and help retain interior heat.
InLighten Light Shelf
The InLighten Light Shelf reduces the need for artificial lighting and increases a building’s energy savings. The shelves are designed to reflect sunlight deeper into the interior of a building by redirecting natural light up to the ceiling.
Alcoa actively supports 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