Aluminum as an element was discovered about 200 years ago, and for a long time aluminum wasn’t used in building constructions. Nowadays, that all has changed, because aluminum was the material, that made our modern skyscrapers possible. So let’s look at the past and present of using aluminum in architecture.
For about a century after aluminum was discovered, it wasn’t thought as common building or construction let alone architecture material, because it was thought that it won’t be able to hold up as good as other materials do. Aluminum was introduced in architecture only in 1920s, but even then it was mostly as decorative detailing for some buildings, not as main building material. That all changed a decade later, when the construction of the Empire State Building began.
Empire State Building was the first architectural object where aluminum was used for many of the major structures of this New York landmark. In fact, many of the interior structures as well as the famous spire of this building is made from aluminum. And that was the push construction and architecture needed to start incorporating aluminum in the making of most buildings.
Today, aluminum is not only very common construction material, but it also is thought as one of the most sustainable and energy efficient construction material, because it helps us build much greener buildings. It makes building faster, too, since aluminum not only doesn’t corrode and you don’t have to do much to maintain it, but you also don’t have to paint it or wait for it to dry like you have to do with concrete for example. And it provides insulation and can allow daylight and fresh air into buildings, because aluminum is able to easily support large windows or even solar panels.
Aluminum can also serve not only as great building material, but also as a way to preserve historic buildings and make them last much longer. For example, in 1994 the deteriorated steel window frames were swapped out with aluminum frames in the already mentioned Manhattan skyscraper, because the old windows had started to leak. And this window replacement allowed the Empire State building look the same, but have stronger and more permanent structure, so it can stand tall in New York for years to come.
But that is not all. Since it is much more environmentally friendly to recycle aluminum and use that for building construction and all other aluminum applications really, today up to 85% of building materials that are used in construction are made from, you guessed it, recycled aluminum. So let’s continue use aluminum and more importantly recycled aluminum in our building constructions, since that will allow us to build much more durable and long-lasting infrastructure, that would have to be maintained less often and that could be infinitely recyclable, creating a greener world around us.