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And on page 45, Calvin Wilson of metals supplier Metal Technology takes a balanced look at the relative benefits of steel and aluminium, when choosing a structural material. As he asserts, it has a superior strength- to-weight ratio than steel, which is seeing it being used in more structural applications. This takes advantage of cast aluminium’s category-beating sustainability status as being virtually 100 per cent recycled, as well as its light weight.

I think my favourite aluminium stat of all is the one reiterated by Michael Stacey in the article in this supplement. Three-quarters of all the aluminium produced since it was discovered in 1886 is still in use. Few other materials can claim that, and it means the tin can you are drinking from could once have formed part of a 747 flying over the Atlantic. That’s real sustainability.

James Parker Editor

METAL IN 10.18


ON THE COVER... Sportcampus is a sports complex built in Zuiderpark, a park in The Hague. FaulknerBrowns Architects created an asymmetrical ovoid, surrounded by a ribbon of polished steel panels, reflecting its surroundings. For the full report on this project, go to page 28

Cover image © Arjen Schmitz



he construction sector, generally speaking, has taken a major hit when it comes to trust and credibility since Grenfell Tower. While the causes of the disaster will take years to fully unravel, due to the interlinking web of responsibility which is itself part of the problem, the UK’s faith in construction materials themselves has been shaken to its core.

It could be argued that the only possible positive, if such a thing can even be imagined after something so traumatic for the community, is that the entire country has woken up to the importance of the materials being used on the buildings we live in. While it is important to prioritise the aesthetics of materials, such as we focus on in this special supplement, the focus should always be rigorously, and unwaveringly, on safety first. If it wasn’t the case in the past, the ability to cut corners must be removed in future.

This only has a partial bearing on the specification of metals however, being as how aluminium composite (ACM), in other words, an aluminium and polyethylene sandwich, was what was used on Grenfell’s reclad. This spec has been attacked due to panels being combustible, however there has not been any suggestion that aluminium was to blame, but the non-fire retardant core. However, with the material even being associated with such an event, the benefits of shoring up the materials’s good reputation are not to be underestimated.

In this supplement dedicated to celebrating metal’s use across architecture, aluminium has been a strong focus in our selection of subjects for coverage this time around. For example, architect Michael Stacey gives a detail-rich insight into why aluminium covers a host of bases on durability and flexibility, beyond the well-known sustainability USPs. He illustrates his discussion with some fascinating and diverse examples.

On page 35, Steve Howard looks at why aluminium is being seen as the viable alternative to traditional timber when it comes to specifying not only decking, but also balconies. With specifiers under increasing pressure to ensure compliance, no doubt intensified post-Grenfell, the metal’s proven strengths are seeing it win out in some perhaps unexpected areas.



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