Aluminum continues to be a popular choice for window frames, both for its attributes and low cost.
As the American Architectural Manufacturers Association explains, aluminum is an attractive choice for many reasons:
Aluminum is sustainable. Aluminum is a noncombustible and natural material. It is the third most abundant element in the Earth’s crust (in the form of bauxite), next to oxygen and silicon. Aluminum is environmentally friendly and nontoxic, even when subjected to high temperatures. It is 100 percent recyclable regardless of any applied finish and can be recycled repeatedly while still retaining the same material physical properties.
According to material flow analysis by the International Aluminum Institute, 75 percent of all the aluminum ever produced in the world is still in service today. Delft University of Technology found that “95 percent of the aluminum used in the building and construction market is recycled at the structure’s end-of-life.” Because of this, and the desirability of the high scrap price, it reduces its environmental impact by not being deposited into landfills. Recycling aluminum takes only about 5 percent of the energy required to make primary aluminum, seriously reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the Aluminum Association, aluminum is one of the most commonly recycled post-consumer metals in the world.
The Aluminum Extruder Council reports that aluminum can be recycled and reused over and over without losing any of its characteristic attributes. It takes four pounds of bauxite (raw material) to make one pound of aluminum and every pound of recycled aluminum saves four pounds of ore. Since the first recorded year of aluminum production in 1893, an estimated 700 million tons of aluminum have been produced of which 400-500 million tons (three-quarters of the output) is still in productive use.
When aluminum is refined (or recycled) in North America, the vast majority of the electricity is produced by clean, renewable hydropower. According to IAI’s 2015 report, Life Cycle Inventory Data and Environmental Metrics for the Primary Aluminium Industry, hydropower is used for 74 percent of the total energy to recycle aluminum and 100 percent in Canada.
Recycled aluminum also helps to achieve the recycled LEED® requirement MR4 (materials with recycled content such that the sum of the post-consumer recycled content plus one-half of the pre-consumer content constitutes at least 10 or 20 percent (based on cost) of the total value of the materials in the project.)
At the end-of-life stage in a building, aluminum is 100 percent recyclable and may be reused without any loss in mechanical attributes, saving on raw material costs.
End Use Shipments of Aluminum Extruded Products, a North American survey conducted jointly by the Aluminum Extruders Council (AEC) and the Aluminum Association, shows 1.97 billion pounds of aluminum were used in 2016 for the building and construction industries, primarily in window, door and curtain wall products.
Recycled materials use natural resources and need to be used effectively again to avoid impacts on the planet. Furthermore, recycling creates jobs.
Benefits of Aluminum Recycling (Annually)
- Equivalency of about 70 million barrels of crude oil of energy is saved – enough oil to feed U.S consumption for three days or nearly one day of the world’s oil supply
- Approximately 2.4 million meters2of land is saved
- More than 45 million tons of fresh and seawater use is avoided—enough water to provide for the needs of New York City’s 8 million people for 10 days
- Approximately 7.5 million tons of solid waste is avoided
- About 27 million tons of CO2greenhouse gas emissions are avoided—equivalent to eliminating five large (1,000 MW) coal-fired power plants
For commercial building design, confidence in a fenestration’s material choice is a mandate, which is why aluminum has been used in these types of structures for decades, but its ever-evolving thermal performance, finishing capabilities and recyclability along with numerous additional green attributes continue to make it a cost-effective, sustainable choice in all applications.
At St. Cloud Window we know every project begins with a challenge or an idea of what a building might be. We bring that vision to life with our distinctive design aesthetics, precision performance, and design-to-delivery support. Learn more about how our products can deliver on your design objectives and site requirements here. Then, check out our full line of historic replica and acoustic window products, and get in touch for more details about any of our high-performing commercial window products.